Sunday, August 08, 2010

When I Am Dead

When I am dead, my dearest
Sing no sad songs for me
Plant thou no roses at my head
Nor shady cypress tree
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet
And if thou wilt, remember
And if thou wilt, forget

I shall not see the shadows
I shall not feel the rain
I shall not hear the nightinggale
Sing on as if in pain
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set
Haply I may remember
And haply may forget

- Christina Rossetti

Our thoughts are with you Tony. --- R.I.P Tony Dale.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Jack Rose R.I.P.

The news about the death of Jack Rose is still so surreal to me that I am not really sure what to write about all this. We will miss a remarkable musician but most of all a warm and caring friend. Rest in piece, Jack.

Here's a text I used in an intro to a Jack Rose interview back in 2003.

Ever since I had that frightening yet beautiful dream, seemingly generated from listening to Pelt’s Empty Bell Ringing in the Sky a few times too many my heart seems to belong to whatever sonic territory this American east coast trio chooses to tread. I’ve always felt that they somehow are capable of displaying things on the other side, haunting things that we’re too busy to see and maybe are too afraid to confront. I am in lifelong debt to Mike Gangloff, Patrick Best and Jack Rose for providing that view, and as if all this wasn’t enough Rose has together with a handful of other contemporary folk guitarists also brought back my faith in modern, skeletal guitar beauty along the lines of the legendary Takoma Records. But although his solo music indeed does recall Fahey and Basho in terms of crystal clear acoustic guitar genius and that he often revisits the chord progressions of delta blues and Appalachian folk, his expression is still very much one of a kind. The first widely available (I realize that I use that term loosely here) testament of all this was his Red Horse, White Mule LP on Eclipse that includes the music of shadows that stretch and creep across your sun-drenched front porch on a particularly hot summer day. Listen carefully and you’ll see how the album flows and ebbs in terms of mood and intensity, and before you know it you’ll find the front yard all covered in brilliantly colored fallen leaves in all shades of red, yellow and orange. Maybe I am just dreaming things up but as the album is over I can actually see footsteps in a light blanket of snow on the ground right in front of me. I guess what I am trying to say is that this completely gorgeous acoustic guitar performance recalls a walk through the cycle of the seasons. But although the whole thing strikes me as very visual I have a feeling that Rose is not really trying to paint an aural image reminiscent of a particular landscape, rather trying to express his inner feelings, foggy daydreams and wistful memories. The results reverberate with a kind of somber, distant contemplation that initially might strike you as dark and brooding but on repeated listens will reveal an unrivalled kind of beauty and calm. And the follow-up album Opium Musick on the very same Arizona label is just as remarkable with its brilliantly organic tone. It’s a heartfelt voyage that Jack Rose takes us on, and we’re honored to have a chance to talk to him...


Thursday, October 29, 2009

After the goldrush #52

Mark Nelson, founding member of Labradford and general magic wizard when it comes to spacious and airily ambient electronica, is the man behind the Pan American wheels. Nelson binds together electronic leanings and organic washes with shoegazer minimalism and dub influences. The latter component is not quite as visible on White Bird Release (Kranky) as on some of his previous outings which make the whole thing even more graceful and soothing. It’s not the most original thing in the world but if you like your drones warm and rounded you can’t really go wrong.

More on the same label comes from Greg Davis who approaches the drone formula from a somewhat different perspective on his Mutually Arising release. We get two extended pieces constructed from synthesizers, effects pedals and computers that are all about sustained and subtle sound exploration. The sound moves glacially but over the course of the 27 minutes long opener “Cosmic Mudra” the patient listener can witness how it transforms from a sound that is barely there to a minimalist roar. Watching the static sound swell is a gorgeous experience and leaves us at the ideal starting point for “Bliss” which sounds quite a bit like its title with warm, floating drones seeping out of the speakers. Increase the volume folks!

I’ve been meaning to write a few words about some Bezoar Formations releases for quite some time now, but for some reason I haven’t come around to actually do anything about it until now. This San Francisco-based label seems pretty flawless if you ask me and Radiant Husk’s Several Totem is as good starting point as any with its quietly buzzing sax/tapes/keyboards swirl. Slowly enveloping tones that sound like a hill of mist-clad pines that hum in the wind makes this all too limited CD-R mysterious and very worthwhile.

Anemone Lodge’s self-titled disc on Bezoar is a chance meeting between Broken Face favorites Number None (Chris Miller and Jeremy Bushnell), The Opera Glove Sinks in the Sea (Gwyneth Merner) and the aforementioned Radiant Husk (Matthew Erickson).The hand-stamped packaging is worth the price of admission of alone and the sound is by no means less exciting. Dark, desolate warehouse drones float like waves across the ocean, meaning this is as natural as the cycle of days and seasons yet somewhat industrial in its droney approach.

Swedish Jonas Rosen’s Duo Senza Testa continues the droney approach of this column with underwater ceremonies that sound like Eyvind Kang and Folke Rabe dipping their toes in Tangerine Dream-tasting waters. At its very finest Fabula (Kalligrammofon) is music for the beginning or end of a world, and no matter how dramatic that may sound it's difficult to find any more suitable words. Clouds of cello and outstanding piano work color these washes of sound that seem to be stuck in a never-ending loop of atmospheric beauty.

Harps of Fuchsia Kalmia is a project of Italian composer/multi-instrumentalist Salvatore Borrelli, and his Burning with Your Old Joy in the Terminal Sun on Ikuisuus sounds like a chaplet of folk-inspired tones glued together to one stumbling entity, leaning as much towards improvisation as composition. Takoma-inspired guitar plucking blend with corrosive dulcimer drones and bouzouki and although I don’t think all of it is perfect enough is to make it an organic listening experience which takes a sound similar to Scott Tuma’s into the terrain of avant-garde music.

Other Thunders (NO-FI) from The One Ensemble Orchestra (featuring Volcano the Bear member Daniel Padden among others) approaches the folk sound from a completely different angle, displaying a somewhat Eastern European and chamber music-inspired take on the genre. This is a fairly up-beat affair and it offers at least eight different routes to aural enlightenment, and believe me, you can’t beat that at this price. I believe all these tracks are new but it wouldn’t be surprising if some of them were actually based on traditionals, because this music is festive and uplifting in a way that so many psych folk explorers today dare not to be, but that being said there’s sadness here, a sense of real memory alloyed with a deep-reaching transcendentalism that words can’t really capture.

The Stumbling Block is Liverpool-based Zukanican's second album and third release on the always-impressive Pickled Egg imprint. Like its predecessors it blends krautrock moves with jazz grooves and dub influences, but this one might very well be their best one yet. The opening “Scaling Wax” sets the standard with trumpet hovering over pulsating basslines and keyboard sounds aiming for the sun. It’s never fun to mention the same reference points as the press kit does but this disc does actually sound like it’s influenced by Can as much as Soft Machine and Art Ensemble of Chicago so what can you do?


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Some new stuff from Sound & Fury

Scotland’s Gayle Brogan has done a lot for the music underground through her consistently great and long-lasting Boa Melody Bar mail-order. Her own sonic contributions have not been as frequent but her previous involvement in the sadly neglected Electroscope and her own solo project Pefkin has always been top class. That’s very much the case for the nicely packaged and somewhat limited Zugunruhe (Sound & Fury) as well. It might not be as playful as the Pefkin debut but in terms of delivering tasty slices of spiraling guitar experimentalism colored by clouds of solemn, analogue electronics it’s just as high up there. This all results in an abstract avant folk platter packed to the brim with underwater ceremonies and bedroom experimentation vaguely related to the pop format.

More on the same label comes from Australian Felicity Mangan that constructs spatial sound collages that moves discreetly alongside nature-clad field recordings. The work of Loren Chasse and Joel Stern is definitely related to Lumetorm but this EP is slightly more clinical and less organic. The loops and collages gurgles and twist around its own sound but the overall effect is generally so subdued that you don’t really see this disc as out there as it probably is. My personal favorite is “Cuap Winter” which sees heavily processed wind chimes creating a stunning wintry effect. Overall it’s an impressive effort that shows a lot of promise but from time to time I miss a bit of the organic effect I am looking for in this kind of music.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Locrian Drenched Lands (Small Doses/At War With False Noise)

Admittedly I didn’t know much about Chicago’s Locrian when Drenched Lands arrived at my doorstep a few months back, but the darkly seducing sounds swept me away within seconds, or at least minutes. It starts slowly with desolate, grainy guitarscapes that moves into a drone that sounds like tumbleweed on its way to burst into fire at any given second. There’s so much energy packed within every segment that it makes me afraid that the involved won’t be able to stay away from the noise crescendo for much longer. But they stick to the tortured power drone for as long as it’s needed. We get shards of feedback from the wastelands and endless loops that seem to be conjured from dark wells, twisting around its own axis in the infinite darkness before briefly rediscovering the white light.

It’s been long since I heard anyone describing alienation in society with the same unrelenting force, but at the same time displaying so much emotion. Most tracks definitely nods in the noise/drone direction while others maintain the magically resonating damaged soundscapery but at the same time pirouettes into something a whole lot more organic. Sure, this is experimental and primitive in its nature but the feedback squalls are presented in such an atmospheric, melodic and even melancholic way that it despite its heavy origins strikes me as very emotional. Drenched Lands is a true masterpiece that manages to sound surprisingly original and it will for sure be on my top ten list when it’s time to wrap up the year.


No Fun Fest

No Fun Fest in Stockholm is going to be a blast. Sadly, I’ll only be there fo the saturday shows but what a line-up!


Wolf Eyes
Skull Defekts
No Fun Acid(Carlos Giffoni)
Ectoplasm Girls

Burning Star Core
Sons of God
Dead Machines
Astral Social Club
Sten Ove Toft
Family Battle Snake

Wolf Eyes
CM Von Hausswolf
Dror Feiler
Religious Knives
Oneohtrix Point
NeverSewer Election
Family Underground

Hair Police
Enema Syringe
Testicle Hazard
Dylan Nyoukis
Sudio SS


Monday, August 17, 2009

After the goldrush #51

What could be a better way to celebrate the return of the Broken Face blog than to take a deep plunge into the Last Visible Dog pool? It’s kind of strange that this well-established underground label is the same label that I started following about ten years ago, then operating on a very tiny scale out of Lincoln, Nebraska. After some years in Providence Chris Moon has decided to abandon the East Coast in favor of Valley Village, California. Given this bunch of relatively new recordings that’s not going to change the direction of the label in any considerable way as all of the items described below very much lives up to the LVD standard.

First out is a brand new album from Broken Face heroes in the Renderers out of New Zealand. Well, they have actually been staying in for a while Germany but I think Monsters and Miasmas (LVD) was recorded down under. To a high extent this is what we’ve come to expect from the Crook family: jagged squalling jams, hypnotic reverberations and forlorn folk tales that project introspective images of tormented souls onto a decayed canvas of mythical proportions. If you ask me it’s another stunner and it might even be my first choice after the essential Dream of the Sea album. I admit that’s one of my all-time favorite albums and that I am a fan boy when it comes to these fellows but don’t you think it’s about time that they get some of the attention they deserve?

Brian Crook is besides his duties in the Renderers also an integral member of long-lasting The Terminals and although I am a happy owner of the original ’95 recording Little Things I am the first to celebrate a proper reissue. Freaked out guitar buzz morphs with thick lava fields of synth sounds and on top we find driving drums and Stephen Cogle’s unmistakable voice; somehow dramatic, mystical and in your face at the same time. It’s as much punk rock as it is pop but depending on whom you ask I am sure goth and NZ noise are genres as likely to be mentioned. But most of all it’s simply the Terminals. No one has ever sounded quite like this and to tell you the truth I don’t think any band every will.

Saxophonist Valerio Cosi and percussionist Enzo Franchini’s Conference of the Aquarians is another stellar disc, but this one nods distinctively in the direction of free jazz. Well, actually free music is probably a better term as this one effectively avoids the trap of predictable avant-gardism. Cosi sure knows how to blow the horn but the noise is not just there for its own sake, rather as an important element of something a whole lot more grand. After a track of wailing horn noise and frenetic drumming we get careful drum patterns that move across a plane of oceanic horn sections that tell just about everything you need to know about longing and sorrow. Add to all this the addition of sitar, electronics, guitar and you get yourself a record that stands on its own feet without any obvious comparisons.

Kristallivirta is the result of a nearly accidental meeting when Aan met up with Eyes Like Saucers on the latter’s European tour. We have seen these fellows in outer margin bands like Kulkija, Uton and Eyes Like Saucers before, but I don’t think I have heard anything from any of them that have gone this far out of the way of the regular route to create something this otherworldly. Slow-moving clouds of harmonium bliss meanders around repetitive percussion and esoteric effects to stunning meditative effect. This is definitely not for those with short attention spans but fans of Uton and Angus Maclise stuck in some kind of nocturnal haze will probably adore this as much as I do.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

After the goldrush #50

It seems like forever since I last wrote here and it probably is. I am not going to try to explain why I am so irregular at this thing these days but rather just dive deep into some stuff people sent me over the last half year or so. First out is an amazing collection of Algerian songs on the 1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground LP (Sublime Frequencies). I’ve praised this label at numerous occasions but this just simply has to be one of their best outings. What we have here is classic tribal North African music dressed up with electric guitar, organ drones and shiploads of circling trumpets. The addition of the latter is what really sets these infectious recordings on fire but as often with these things it’s the combination of groove, soul and rawness that makes it so special.

More vinyl of the same striking quality but of an entirely different form comes from the star collaboration of Aaron Moore (of Volcano the Bear, Songs of Norway and much more) and Anla Courtis (Reynols). Brokebox Juke (NO-FI Recordings) is solemn rock experimentalism brought through a filter of ocean deep krautrock drones, urban psychedelia and breezy jazz textures. It’s all much more accessible than I first imagined it to be and I certainly mean that in a positive way. This mail collaboration is one of few that feel natural and actually sounds like the players are listening to one another, a somewhat rare feature these days. Any fans of the two involved or anything on the Last Visible Dog imprint will walk knee-deep in this finely textured sound mud for the rest of the week.

Sweden’s Testbild! is probably a household name to at least the Scandinavian part of the readership but for the rest of you I imagine that their sweeping pop collages still might be unexplored territories. Aquatint (Friendly Noise) is to tell you the truth not my favorite release (perhaps Imagine a House or The Inexplicable Feeling Of September are better entry points) but there’s enough goodies on this concept album of sorts to make it memorable and very much worthwhile to track down. The sound of dripping water, the crashing sea and underwater inspiration in general meet the band’s trademark blend of the ‘60s soft pop sound and the Canterbury scene. It’s a graceful and ambitious album that for some reason has me thinking about Astrid Gil and that can’t ever be a bad thing, right? In addition to the 68 minutes of music, this album also includes a 12-page booklet comprising a short story and a short film by collective member Pontus Lundkvist.

I haven’t really kept track every release of Astral Social Club release in the same way as I used to do with Neil Campbell’s previous bands, but I have never figured out why since everything I hear is stellar in its own way. Octuplex (VHF) is no different as it effectively combines shimmering loop-laced electronic drones, psychedelic ambience, techno pulses and synthetic rain showers in general. More on the same label comes from Æthenor, a combo that shares members with SunnO)), Guapo, and Shora with additional guests like David Tibet. Other people have always seemed more impressed by these cats than myself but I have to admit that Faking Gold & Murder is pretty effective at sounding like you wouldn’t expect, like some kind of alchemical psych prog mix that prefers distant and bumpy roads rather than the most noticeable ones. The tracks do occasionally veer off into wilder terrain; walking a circling road from walls of black riffage and free-wheeling drum kit work to ferocious soundscapes. No matter chosen volume and velocity the presence of Tibet adds a very welcome supernatural color to the four varied tracks. I think I might have converted…

The rumor says that Across the Sea of Id: The Way to Eden (Camera Obscura) is the final Black Sun Ensemble release. I’ve been a close follower of Jesus Acedo and Eric Johnson over the years and although I have fond memories of pretty much all of their albums none of them has ever struck me as fully developed as this supposedly last one. It’s not necessarily their best material but it’s been thought through, constructed and sequenced with an attention to details I rarely have seen before. There’s not as much of Acedo's hallucinogenic mantras of scorching guitars as on the previous albums but we get songs that are haunting in their own right, songs that with simple means actually go beyond the more out there stuff. The meandering guitar work moves comfortably around Eastern influences and jazz flourishes and the overall effect is entrancing to say the least. I have no clue how Acedo’s fight with his inner deamons is working out these days but if the sound presented here is any indicator I have to say that things are starting to look more optimistic. Whilst shopping from Australia make sure to get your hands on United Bible Studies’ The Jonah, a disc that in some ways mark a new direction for these Irish prog-folk masterminds. I guess that you could say that this is their way of doing the same thing Richard Youngs did with Ilk, his ultimate prog release. Apparently the band set out to do a prog album and although I think such a term is accurate I’d also like to stress that this still very much sounds like the ‘Studies, just of a slightly more...hmm..post-apocalyptic variety. Imagine a mix of Nick Castro, Espers and the band themselves and you’re getting close the essence of this recording.

On the lesser known side of the scale we have Kahl Monticone and his self-released Mistakes and Palpitations. As a matter of fact I don’t really know anything about this fellow besides that he’s from Brisbane, Australia and given my personal sonic connections to that city it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that this is right up my alley. Subtle piano playing and scattered bass walk alongside a meandering river of open-ended guitarscapes to stunning effect. The improvised sound sculptures form a gentle curve towards the delicate sonic equilibrium, but instead of taking the shortest route Monticone takes some time to fully explore the space within his pieces which makes these recordings work like a gravitational pull, glacially taking the listener to the conclusion. The whole thing is mournful and melancholic, but the beauty and elegance that lies within the guitar notes is just as impressive. This is the sound of an endless beach or of the morning sun slowly finding its way into the hidden valley. Very few are able to create this sort of sublime and eternal beauty with so little but if you need companions Loren MazzaCane Connors and Scott Tuma come close.

Another Brisbane musician with a taste for things experimental is film maker and sound artist Joel Stern, but where Monticone favors melodies Stern tends to focus on found sounds and objects in a similarly organic way as for example Loren Chasse. Objects.masks.props (Naturestrip) is to a large extent about forested field recordings playing with another or glued together to counterpoint one another. Stern’s slowly unfolding, yet detailed and somewhat grainy sonic landscapes, offer a sacred space for solitude, wonder and demented beauty which is difficult to pin down in mere words. It all sounds like some nearly lost memory that just hast to be remembered or like being trapped inside a dream that’s all about subtle disorientation. This disc is unquestionably one of the most demanding ones I have heard in a while but the reward for those who manage to let go and follow the vision of this man will be immensely rewarded.

UK's Ashtray Navigations (aka Phil Todd) has been spitting out CD after CD after tape after tape after CD-R after CD-R for years now. Close to 100 would be my guess. The sheer amount of releases makes it pretty difficult to try to point a newcomer in the right direction, but Sugar Head Record, a beautifully packaged dbl CD-R on Deep Water is definitely up there. Billowing clouds of thick chordal bliss, modal guitar-drone bliss, warbling drones, tape trickery, communal trance orientation and buzzing improvisations that range from the dissonantly beautiful to a sort of repetitive aural hypnosis are some of the components of this epic release but mark my words, these words don’t do this one justice. Look it up, folks!

I’ve said some very positive things about Houstonite Susan Alcorn in the past and that is not going to change anytime soon judging by the sounds of her latest offering, Curandera on Majmua Music. Curandera includes seven floating instrumentals for the pedal steel guitar, and as much as it is unusual to see this instrument used in this kind of beautiful and experimental context, it’s filling me with joy. Never underestimate the possibilities of making the sound of any instrument into something unique. In this case we’re served an emotional journey that sees currents of unease crashing into rock formations of endless sorrow and beauty. The technique is flawless, but ultimately it's beside the point. As with a handful of other modern guitarists Alcorn’s a woman who packs emotion into every little single note and even the spaces between seem to be there to evoke a specific feeling and mental state.