Friday, July 30, 2004

Playlist #5
Scorces/ Tom Carter "Beats for the Beast" CD (Free Porcupine Society)
Zukanican "E 5number" 10" (Pickled Egg)
Davenport "Free Country" CD-R (Digitalis)
Ithaca "A Game for All Who Know" CD (Acme Gram./Lion Prod.)
Daniel Patrick Quinn "Severed from the Land" CD (Suilven Recordings)
Tom Carter "For Four C's" CD-R (Wholly Other)
The North Sea "The Oscelot Chronicles vol. 1" CD-R (Digitalis)
Volcano the Bear "The Idea of Wood" CD (Textile)
Justin Vollmar "13 Or So People Who Need Chances" CD (BlueSanct)
Octopus Sung "Beyond the Karmadelic Coldness, There's..." CD (Soundhawk)


Thursday, July 29, 2004

The North Sea The Oscelot Chronicles vol. 1 (Digitalis Industries)
The Oscelot Chronicles vol. 1 is the impressive debut album from Oklahoma’s The North Sea and I have to say that the music sounds quite a bit what my own mind image of the North Sea looks like. There’s something distinctly empty and vast about this recording that either could have you associating to the wide-open flatlands of the planes or as in my case, the enormous areas of the sea. The lush, slowly shifting guitar drones, glimmering delayed guitarscapes, field recordings, warbling notes and barely-there melodies sometimes give way for heavy thunderheads of slithering, spiraling guitars but most of the time the emphasis is definitely on the quieter side of things. In a similar way as with Roy Montgomery’s music (and I am not only referring to the ample use of delay-steeped and effect-laden guitars) there’s a very strong sense of being isolated in time and place throughout the recording. I am not sure if it’s the haunting, lonely, late-night beauty of the guitar playing that provides this feel or if it’s something else but while listening I can’t help but imagining being in the middle of the North Sea with nothing but water around me. The mixture of hopelessness, melancholy and majestic beauty that such a vista provides is all over the place here and by the time the disc has run its 49 minute course, and you can perceive the whole of The Oscelot Chronicles vol. 1 in your mind's ear, you'll be nicely blissed out.

Volcano the Bear The Idea of Wood (Textile Records)
Some things just got to be seen and heard to be believed. One of these things is to experience UK combo Volcano the Bear in the live setting. Nothing I say will accurately describe that evening a few months back when I made the trip down to the unlikely setting of their first Swedish gig (the art museum in Norrköping, a mid-sized town in Southern Sweden) but does that going to stop me from trying? Of course not.

Well, for a start they never played a single tune from the brand new record. That doesn’t really come as a surprise given that they were formed with the constant idea of being a group with uncompromising and boundless ideas and always have tried to aim for a live environment where they can do pretty much whatever they please. This results in a live show that beyond grandiose sonic qualities blends the very essence of keywords such as theatrical, shifting moods, myriad of instruments, humor, beauty and self-indulgence. That being said, these sonic transgressors are not for everyone but if you’re a fan of free-form improvisations, free jazz, weird drones, pagan folk, whimsical acoustic pieces, crackling electronics and actually own more than one record by either the Sun City Girls, This Heat, Residents, The Shadow Ring or Captain Beefheart than you owe it to yourself to check out these cats.

If you’re not as lucky as me when it comes to attending VTB shows I am happy to report that their new album on the French Textile imprint is equally adventurous and impressive. The mind-puzzling polyrhythmic structures of “Charming Cabbage Clock” recalls Sun City Girls at their most mellow while the emotive and moving “Golden Hot Bite” blends corrosive string massage with hypnotic horns in a way that could draw comparisons to a primitive and surrealistic Jackie-O Motherfucker. Initially the same could be said about “Shake Your Crow” but when off-kilter vocals are introduced to the mix it’s just too bizarre to be compared to anything. There’s a violin meandering around the vocals and the rest of the instruments that effortlessly walks along the tightrope between the creepy and the sad and that only adds to the uncompromising nature of this one. This is obviously experimental music at its very best and quite irresistible if you ask me but my choice among these ten tracks is still “Dawn and My Hips Are Fuel”.  It starts with a drawn out and repetitious horn sound which is so organic it’s probably worth killing for and as it comes back time after time you can really sense the anticipation of what’s going to come next. And what is next? Well, plucked guitar work that fills the air with vibrations, crackling electronics and nicely cooked ethno-psych percussion. And then there is the lovely jazz/noise/drone piece “Curly Robot” that probably will confound as much as please.

Not everything on here is this great and the true environment for Volcano the Bear is probably the live setting but still, it all fits together surprisingly well and I honestly believe that you never have heard anything quite like this before. This is meditation music for the noise generation.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Kemialliset Ystävät Alkuhärkä (Fonal Records)
When I asked Kemialliset Ystävät’s head honcho Jan Anderzen for some words about the new record when we met briefly the other month his short and very characteristic response was "no words". I couldn’t help but to laugh, as that was exactly the kind of response I was expecting from a guy who rarely speaks highly of himself and never seems to want to be at the center of things. After treating my ears to Alkuhärkä a number of times I am bound to say the same thing, no words can ever do these sounds justice. It’s simply an album which is so complex, multi-facetted and downright uncategorizable that it more can be seen like a chaplet of different tones and colors than actual songs. Kemialliset Ystävät resides on the golden throne of free-form folk and forest psychedelia, continuously getting lost in a beautiful maze of forest-clad pathways, improvisation, drones and stumbling drum circle folk. But unlike other combos exploring similar terrain, Kemialliset Ystävät is never quite content with just exploring the same aural pattern over and over again. On the contrary we get a pretty fucked up racket, whether they completely switch directions in the middle of a song or mess things up via panning and phasing and weird percussive elements. A KY track can go from something quite sweet and accessible to something very far out in seconds.

The amazing Aquarius Records out of San Francisco recently described this recording as something the whole Broken Face ‘zine scene will want/need so I guess it doesn’t come as a big surprise that the sort of exploration of inner and outer spirituality that’s presented here blows my mind. There are pretty strong ritualistic undertones throughout Alkuhärkä but the dominant feel that’s still here when these 18 beautiful tracks have passed by is the one of witnessing a blurry close up of a visionary mind that transcends all barriers and borders created to stop us all from going insane. If that doesn’t typify a masterwork I am not sure what does.

Back home...
I am finally back home again after four weeks of traveling. It feels pretty nice to be in our own house again after staying at a number of friends’ places and hostels but the same can’t really be said about being back at work. Oh well…I guess you can’t have all. Basically just wanted to say hi and let you all know that the blog hopefully will be updated more frequently from now on. Today’s playlist includes Ithaca, Testbild!, Kemialliset Ystävät, Davenport and Daniel Patrick Quinn.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

It’s vacation times here so I’ll be quick…

Glenn Jones
“This is the Wind that Blows it Out – Solos for 6 & 12 string Guitar”
Strange Attractors CD

Some things never change, and in the case of the circling guitar line that appears about halfway through “The Doll Hospital” I am happy I’ve heard it before and relieved that I will hear it again. It’s a vague trace of an acoustic guitar melody that somehow has been there all the time when taking the winding route through the Appalachians together with Boston’s Cul de Sac and it’s still here when Glenn Jones chooses to go solo. I am obviously dreaming things up but there is some sort of harmonic relationships that comes back in every single release this man is involved with. The musical palette employed on the brilliant This is the Wind that Blows it Out – Solos for 6 & 12 string Guitar has a whole lot more in common with the Takoma tradition than with Cul de Sac but in terms of connecting with the past this one will do the trick both for long time Cul de Sac fans and for newcomers.

When describing acoustic guitar music that is wondrous and transcendent, music that meanders and flows in a way that makes it seem constructed purely to illustrate moods and nuances, it’s easy to dismiss it as just another guitarist wanting to copy the late Fahey but what we see here is just profound respect. Just like contemporaries as Jack Rose and Steffen Basho-Junghans he manages to honor what has been and in the meantime look further than most musicians have the capacity or guts to do. All that is left now is that guitar line dancing between my ears and a smile glued to my face. Highly recommended!