Saturday, October 30, 2004

Favorite of 2004?

A few forums and mailing lists that I try to follow on a regular basis have recently started discussing their favorite releases of 2004. The list below is not really intended to be complete but it unquestionably includes most of my favorites. Feel free to add your own favorites under "comment" below.

Charalambides "Joy Shapes" (Kranky)
Hush Arbors "Since We Have Fallen" (Digitalis)
The Ivytree "Winged Leaves" (Catsup Plate)
The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden "Owl of Fives" (Textile Records)
Bardo Pond & Tom Carter "4/23/03" (3 Lobed)
Sky Green Leopards "One Thousand Bird Ceremony" (Soft Abuse)
Tom Carter "Monument" (Kranky)
Xenis Emputae Travelling Band "The Hieroglyphic..." (Deserted Village)
Kemialliset Ystävät "Alkuhärkä" (Fonal)
Stuart Busby "Breathe" (Kindling)
Jack Rose "Two Originals Of..." (VHF)
Black Forest/Black Sea "Radiant Symmetry " (Last Visible Dog)
Hala Strana "These Villages" (Soft Abuse)
The Lost Domain "Sailor, Home from the Sea" (Broken Face/Digitalis)
Islaja "Meritie" (Fonal)
Alphane Moon / Our Glassie Azoth "Experimenting with an Amen" (Oggum)
Ghost "Hypnotic Underworld" (Drag City)
Marissa Nadler "Ballads of Living and Dying" (Eclipse)
Christina Carter "Living Contact" (Kranky)
Scatter "Surprising Sing Stupendous Love" (Pickled Egg)
Six Organs of Admittance "The Manifestation" (Strange Attractors)
Testbild! "The Inexplicable Feeling of September" (Friendly Noise)
Davenport "Free Country" (Digitalis)
Sandoz Lab Technicians "Everythings Fifteen" (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
Volcano the Bear "The Idea of Wood" (Textile)
Tinsel "Stitches of Light" (Keyhole)
Douglas Ferguson "Lexical Passages" (Evelyn Records)
Steffen Basho-Junghans "7 Books" (Strange Attractors)
Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words "11 Instances..." (Ideal)
Tanakh "Dieu Deuil" (Alien8)
Kang Tae Hwan Trio "Love Time" (VHF)


Friday, October 29, 2004

Hala Strana These Villages (Soft Abuse)

When you expect something to flat out blow you away it's not uncommon that you initially find yourself a bit disappointed. That's what happened the first time I listened to These Villages, the brand new Hala Strana album. But as any seasoned fan of weird sounds can tell you, that can sometimes be a good thing. The growers tend to strike the deepest.

Hala Strana is a relatively new moniker for long-time favorite Steven R. Smith, created to be able to delve deep into Eastern and Central European folk music. What we get this time out is eleven beautiful, slightly dissonant instrumentals that both include interpretations of traditional Eastern songs and his own songwriting inspired by the same region. Call me a novice but I can’t really tell which one is which and that should probably be seen as a big compliment and another proof that Smith truly understands the background of these sounds.

It doesn’t really feel right to go into detailed descriptions of specific tracks here, as this truly is an album rather than eleven different tracks. Droning soundscapes and rumbles that sound like lost memories wrapped in layers of sonic desolation give way for hypnotic, soul-stirring avant folk. A friend of mine once described the work of Hala Strana as a blend of the rawer side of early Velvet Underground, Alastair Galbraith, Eastern Europe and ghosts and if you add the corrosive drones and scraped instrumentation of Pelt, aural shadows tearing holes through the landscape and blurry snapshots of something haunting or even foreboding I am tempted to agree. Not many things have moved me the same way in 2004.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Lost Domain and birthday

I am happy to let you all know that the Australian avant-folk/drone/jazz/improv ensemble The Lost Domain’s Broken Face/Digitalis release now have been shipped from the manufacturer. If everything goes as planned we should have our copies in the end of next week. Can’t wait!

Besides spending too much time thinking about this I am also trying to recuperate from my 30th birthday that took place last weekend…


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Hush Arbors interview

People interested in Hush Arbors should note that a recent interview I did with Keith Wood (a.k.a. Hush Arbors) can be found at the impressive and always-inspiring Dusted website.


Monday, October 18, 2004

Today’s playlist:

Xenis Emputae Travelling Band The Hieroglyphic Mountain (Deserted Village)
Xenis Emputae Travelling Band A Selenographic Lens (Larkfall)
Xenis Emputae Travelling Band The Suffolk Workings (Larkfall)
Xenis Emputae Travelling Band New Etheric Muse (Larkfall)
Xenis Emputae Travelling Band Full Moon June (Xenis Emputae)
Xenis Emputae Travelling Band Lords of the Green Grass (Queasylistening)

This is some truly remarkable stuff. Check out the
Larkfall site for more information.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Foxy Digitalis update

Gigantic update over at Foxy Digitalis, including interviews with Devendra Banhart, Antony Milton, Marissa Nadler, Murmansk, Drekka & Rivulets, Nick Castro, a label spotlight on Belgium’s Imvated imprint and more reviews than we can absorb in one sitting. Check it out!

P.S. At least two Broken Face writers have contributed to this issue...


Saturday, October 09, 2004

Another note from Broken Face Recordings...

This is the first note from the Broken Face Recordings mailing list. Well, I guess it's really more of an invitation to join...This list will by no means be a regular thing but members will for sure be the first to know what's happening with the Broken Face Recordings label...welcome on board!

Here's the information you need in order to join:

Group information:Group name: brokenfacerecordings
Group home page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/brokenfacerecordings


Friday, October 08, 2004

Five good reasons for my somewhat euphoric mood

1. Hala Strana’s These Villages just arrived at my doorstep
2. The upcoming Lost Domain disc
3. The weekend is finally here (and there is beer in the fridge)
4. Katja is finally getting better
5. I actually got some sleep last night


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Playlist #10

Testbild! The Inexplicable Feeling of September (Friendly Noise)
Hush Arbors Under Bent Limb Trees (upcoming album on Digitalis)
Floorian What the Buzzing (Bomp)
The North Sea Autumn Birch (Pseudo Arcana)
Cul de Sac/Damo Suzuki Abhayamudra (Strange Attractors Audio House)
Fursaxa Amulet (self-released)
V/A Acuarela Songs 3 (Acuarela)
Fursaxa The Cult from Moon Mountain (self-released)
Bo Hansson Ur Trollkarlens Hatt (Silence)
A Real Knipe Head Thought Paint Control (Slow Toe Records)


Monday, October 04, 2004

The Bevis Frond Hit Squad (Woronzow)
AqPop Beautifully Smart (HHBTM/35 g)

Placing these two bands together in one review might from afar not be an obvious thing to do, as they don’t really sound the same and come from totally different backgrounds. But the more I listen to these albums I realize that there are more factors that unite than the other way around.

The Bevis Frond has been around forever and if I get their discography right I believe that this is their nineteenth album. I guess the question if we really need another Bevis Frond album comes quite naturally and after one listen there is simply no doubt about that. Nick Saloman is not in any way running out of ideas and this very personal interpretation and vision of psychedelic pop/rock and mournful folk soon proves to be another trademark corker of an album. The heartfelt folk piece “All Set?” opens things masterfully with Saloman’s dark, melancholic vocals curling around delicate guitars and trumpet arrangements. “Dragons” offers droning power pop but it’s the soaring guitars and whirring keyboard sounds of the epic “Through the Hedge” that wins me over. What makes it truly great is the strong melody that’s always present under the thick layers of guitar eruptions. Another highlight is “Way Back Then” where we get to see both the folkier side of Nick’s persona and some beautiful psych-pop harmonies on par with some of our ‘60s favorites. All in all this is another solid Bevis Frond album that has a little something for everyone; extended jams, beautiful slow folk nuggets, stomp rockers, lyrical wit and honesty, guitar fire and not the least the patented psychedelic power-pop sprawl. Fans will definitely need this and newcomers can do a lot worse than start right here.

After a cpl of 7”s and compilation appearances it’s finally time for Trondheim, Norway’s AqPop (AKA Aquarium Poppers) to enter the full-length format. Despite the obvious differences in terms of experience they connect to The Bevis Frond in the way that they share their love for exploring the golden treasure trove of ‘60s psych pop and blending it with folk tendencies and a mass of squealing leads. But where Bevis Frond sounds distinctly English these guys shows more obvious overseas connections. Guided by Voices and the Byrds come to mind and at their very best this is in fact right up there with Norwegian Dipsomaniacs’ take on the style. The keyboard-infused “Have It” is a psych pop confection of highest possible caliber while “Relate That Something” is quirky indie pop with jagged guitars circling around tasty up-beat rhythms. And then we have “Caught By This Feeling” (originally a AqPop song but recorded by Dipsomaniacs for the Praying Winter album) that dives surprisingly deep into the hot pool of acid folk with dreamy fem vocals and a considerable amount of tasty experimentalism. Not everything is perfect here but enough is to wholeheartedly recommend this one to fans of experimental pop, Dipsomaniacs and the E6 collective.


Sunday, October 03, 2004

This is a preview of a review that will appear in the fifth issue of the amazing Dream Magazine

Testbild! The Inexplicable Feeling of September (Friendly Noise)

A thick blanket of fog had obscured the landscape as I was driving to work this morning. I slowed my car as I struggled to see the road and while straining to see through the fog there was mystical fall music seeping out of the speakers. At that moment I was in some sort of dreamlike fairyland and although it all burned off far too quickly, it did make the pastoral farmlands and surrounding pine forests fairly mystical in the meantime. The music that was my partner for this journey was initially Testbild!’s quietly droning synth piece “Sarkofag” and then their massive drone/folk/lowercase epic “Sparks From Extinct Steelworks” that closes out this depthless masterwork.. The latter is a wonderfully fractured and experimental piece that takes a major step away from previous Testbild! outings and to tell you the truth it’s quite a leap from most of the material on this album as well. But somehow it still makes perfect sense as some sort of teaser of what is to come, and to once again prove that we never can be really sure what these cats will be up to.

Testbild! is a Swedish duo that constructs quirky pop melodies that they run through a squadron of influences, ranging from Pram-esque electronica, esoterica, field recordings, free folk and atmospheric drones to detailed sound experiments. What comes out on the other side is despite the wide range of influences as natural as the cycle of days and seasons. The Inexplicable Feeling of September doesn’t always follow my own route to sonic euphoria, but it’s definitely on the same map and every time they’re beginning to get out of sight there is some aural detail, or a beautiful instrumental snippet, added to the mix that brings them back close.

If there ever was a fall record this got to be the one, and that doesn’t only apply for the aural counterpart to the foggy mornings that is so common this time of the year. On the contrary the more pop-oriented tracks offer what we get to see after the morning mist has vanished, the kind of clear blue sky that you only get in the fall. And the hushed moments of introspection that mainly is visible in the downcast instrumental tracks recall the setting sun that burns on the horizon, radiating a warm orange glow on your face.

The fifteen melodies rise and fall in a dazzling topography of sound as the weather changes and the end results strike me as the perfect companion both for riding quiet country roads that are dusted with brilliantly colored fallen leaves and for your rain-soaked fall reveries.


Saturday, October 02, 2004

Peter Wright Desolation Beauty Violence (Foxglove)
Avid readers of the Broken Face magazine will recognize the name of this now relocated (to England) New Zealander as we’ve spread quite some praise over a half-dozen of his releases on everything from his own Apoplexy label to celebrated underground imprints such as Celebrate Psi Phenomenon and Last Visible Dog. According to the rumour this is a sister release of sorts to his upcoming CD on Pseudoarcana and if that one is as good as this one I know I’ll have some shopping to do. Desolation Beauty Violence is an album that’s all about patience and seeing the beauty in vibrant, droning soundscapes that slowly evolve and shift character. If you ask me it’s a totally mesmerizing and beautiful sound excursion that is overflowing with mood and atmosphere. The static opener "Above Lewis Pass" is the perfect tool to seductively pull you into his world of densely layered guitar drones, minimal effects and field recordings and “Adrift at 30 000 ft” is by no means less dark and desolate. The following “Like Clockwork,” “Kashmir” and “Point Blank” are all slightly more folky in a Pelt meets Thuja kind of way and provides us with some tasty drifting clouds of heavenly organic textures. As the title of the album suggests there are also some harsher moments present but it’s the emotional resonance, delicately fluctuating ambience and densely tangled drone webs that will stick to your mind. When it all fades out it leaves behind a beautiful, chilling calm.


Friday, October 01, 2004

INSTAL 04, a two day music festival held in Glasgow 16-17 october.

Current 93
Six Organs of Admittance
Charlemagne Palestine
William Basinski
Richard Youngs
Chie Mukai
Vajra [Keiji Hanio, Kan Mikami, Toshi Ishizuka]
Derek Bailey & Ingar Zach
Steffen Basho-Junghans
Masayoshi Urabe
Kan Mikami solo

Any volunteers for paying my ticket to Scotland? What a line-up...