Friday, April 30, 2004

Volcano the Bear and Guignol
I still can’t quite believe it but it looks like the amazing and quite indescribable Leicester unit Volcano the Bear will be coming to Sweden for a show this summer. As far as I know there’s no new Volcano the Bear material on the horizon as we speak but while waiting for that to happen I am happy to spread the gospel about some vtb-related recordings. First we have Owl of Fives, the amazing new solo album from Daniel Padden on Textile Records out of France. I guess you could call it a free folk album which comes packed with equal parts melancholia, dissonance and fragile beauty. Words like stumbling, fractured and fragmentized comes to mind but the overall impression is rather the one of seasons going by and colors changing in accordance to the sounds presented. Beautiful stuff that comes highly recommended.

And while you’re at it you can always return to 2003’s Guignol and Songs of Norway albums. Here’s a review of Guignol…

Guignol is a relatively new project comprised of Jeremy Barnes (of Bablicon, Neutral Milk Hotel and more recently Broadcast) and Volcano the Bear members Laurence Coleman and Aaron Moore. Given the personnel involved it's not surprising that we're served an intriguing and brave sonic statement that transcends most conventions there are, finding their own favorite vista on some secret island with the futuristic ocean on one side and the historic on the other. Gently disturbing outsider folk, muffled clusters of soundscapes, weird samples, clattery percussion, fractured noises, introspective drones and carnival-esque sound collages make up a record packed with emotion, intimacy and sheer brilliance. "Of Houses and Canals" is particularly great; offering a whispering, submerged collage of aural imagination and fragmented dreams but then "Invisible Sports" also proves to be worth the price of admission. It's a track based on a traditional Slavic tune and if the original is anything like this in terms of mystical feel I just know I'll be tracking it down. It's a quiet aural collision that shimmers, drones, swells and vibrates in a similar manner as for instance Kemialliset Ystävät, and you know that's a great compliment around these parts. Many of the carefully layered compositions are piano or accordion-based with percussion, horns, bells, dulcimers and samples filling in the blanks. But luckily these guys know that this sort of recording benefit from keeping certain things unsaid, thus providing an abstract mood of reverie and melancholic bliss to the proceedings. Angela, David and the Great Neopolitan Road Issue is unquestionably one of 2003’s finest recordings.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

Playlist #2
The new playlist includes a few goodies from the always-impressive VHF imprint (www.vhfrecords.com) out of Virginia and that makes total sense as Bill Kellum never seems to do anything wrong ever since he decided to start releasing Pelt records. Here we go…

Jack Rose “Two Originals Of...” (VHF)
Richard Youngs & Alex Neilson “Ourselves” CD (VHF)
Kang Tae Hwan Trio “Love Time” CD (VHF)
Kinski “Don't Climb On and Take the Holy Water” (Strange Attractors)
Patrik Torsson “Kolväteserenader” (Häpna)
Alphane Moon / Our Glassie Azoth “Experimenting with an Amen” (Oggum)
Various Artists “The Dead Set” (Shytone)
The Blithe Sons “Arm of the Starfish” (Family Vineyard)
Sun City Girls “Wah” (Abduction)
Tanakh “Dieu Deuil” (Alien8)

Live shows
A friend of mine recently sent me some pictures from the Moonshake festival, which was held in the town of Umeå in January this year. Despite the fact that Umeå is a whole lot closer to the Arctic Circle than what the residents of this university town probably would like to admit I managed to get up there for what unquestionably has been this year’s highlight when it comes to live shows. There were a few local acts who definitely did what they could, but what made the trip worthwhile was without a doubt Providence folk/electronics duo Black Forest /Black Sea and the always-impressive psychedelia/drone/kraut/space explorers of the Spacious Mind.

Since all his took place I haven’t really had the chance to attend many live shows (a fantastic Kim Hiortöy gig is the exception which verifies the rule) so I am excited to let you know that I’ll have a big dose of live action on Saturday this week. An unfortunate event collision will have music fans in Stockholm going back and forth from the Häpna festival (www.hapna.com) and Distro at Kulturhuset (www.kulturhuset.stockholm.se/link.asp?/event.asp?eventID=2516) but the more the merrier, right? You’ll find me right next to the stage at the Tape, David Grubbs/Mats Gustafsson and Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words shows…

Häpna is in my opinion the best Swedish label to appear in the last cpl of years and it’s with great pleasure that we find them taking this new step to world domination. I hope to see some of you there…


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Tinsel "Stitches of Light" (Keyhole)
I am happy to be able to publish a review from my old pal on the other side of the pond. Please welcome Mr. Lee Jackson! If you're interested in a copy of this disc send Mats a note and I'll send you in the right direction...

Tinsel's first album, The Lead Shoes, was co-released by The Broken Face, a fine underground noise and pop zine out of Sweden. Stitches of Light (Keyhole), the followup to that ghostly collision of fractured folk scapes and subtle industrial harmonics, comes as a CD-R package limited to 125 copies, which begs the question, can we expect a reissue? More people probably need to hear it. Seven tracks of dusty bedroom psych that has an instantly familiar but distant allure get evenly distributed over 30 minutes of dark harmonic swirls. May be an even more enticing affair than The Lead Shoes --streamlined, a bit less fractured and alienating, memorable melodies, but still a dense, expressionist canvass gets explored with layers of cavernous noise loops and drone a constant presence.

Opener "When It Is Time" sounds like a lost lullaby overheard via an old factory drain pipe, gently wafting through the dense, rusty air. Electric piano, vibes, sweet harmonies and subtle samples and loops back a rumination about coming in from the dark with a lovely melody that softens the melanchony subject matter. It merely commences one of the more disturbingly surreal electronica/folk dream cycles I've come across in quite some time. Masterful tracks like "The Choirgirl," "Somnam (Sweet Light in a Dark Room)" and the aptly titled "Elegant Decay"--an extended trip through industrial creeps and crawls--should be heard if you've ever dreamt of a union between folkier Current 93 and later Third Eye Foundation, but that only really hints at the complexity of this tense journey. For music that's largely sample-driven, it's warm, approachable folk pop that's melodic enough to appeal to dream-pop types, but darker and scarier in an Eraserhead sort of way. Be prepared for narcoleptic lapses and spontaneous hallucinations when exploring such vivid dream portals.

Katja, the latest and smallest member of the Broken Face family
I am sorry for not writing a whole lot here recently but I think my reasons for not doing so is well worth listening to. I know it’s pretty hard to believe (especially for myself) but on April 1st my wife Anna and me and got a daughter. And if you have any experience of babies I think you have a rough idea of how time-consuming they can be…

Katja is a beautiful and healthy baby, which without any question of a doubt will be the coolest little girl in Vagnhärad, mark my words. The last little sentence is actually borrowed from a friend of mine but when someone is right…well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.