Thursday, January 27, 2005

James Blackshaw Lost Prayers and Motionless Dances (Digitalis)

This feels monumental to my ears. It’s certainly the best record of 2004 that I didn’t actually hear in 2004. If contemporary names like Jack Rose and Glenn Jones mean anything to you, this is simply a release that you cannot walk by. Fingerpicked 12-string guitar beauty meanders like a gently floating river across pastoral farmlands, but before getting there we’ve passed through a trance-inducing harmonium introduction, which provides blurry images of mist-clad harbors at dawn. And if you turn this section up loud I am sure you can here the doors of an abandoned harbor warehouse creak on its rusted hinges as the wind chimes. It’s simply a stunning start to this one-track CD, which clocks in at 35 minutes. Just when you think you’ve grasped the essence of this recording Blackshaw moves effortlesly from the acoustic folk guitar explorations to something a whole lot more experimental (in a Celebrate Psi Phenomenon fuzz kind of way), and before we realize how it all happened we’ve all moved on to a circular folk groove that’s so beautiful and mind-blowingly perfect that it left me with the mouth wide open

Discovering James Blackshaw has so far been one of my personal musical highlights during 2005, and I have a feeling you’ll feel the same way if you decide to examine his mesmerizing and soothing sound world closely. Highly recommended.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fit & Limo Terra Incognita (September Gurls)

The consistently impressive German 'husband and wife' outfit Fit & Limo is back with what I believe is their tenth full-length release. The band’s trademark psychedelic forest folk, influenced by folks like Incredible String Band, Pearls Before Swine and COB, is still very much present but the ample use of cosmic/Krautish characteristics as well as a bunch of collaborative tracks with other artists easily sets this one apart from any of their previous albums.

Regular Broken Face readers will be pleased to learn that Providence ensemble Black Forest/Black Sea as well as Timothy Renner (of Stone Breath, Breathe Stone, Morning Cloak, Spectral Light & Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree etc.) find their way into this album, somehow enabling the band to find their way to an even more engaging and mystical sound. While two of the tracks with Miriam Goldberg and Jeffrey Alexander (of BF/BS) lean towards the wonderfully soft-spoken and masterfully crafted free folk of Tower Recordings and PG Six, the collaboration with Renner results in haunting, slightly gothic chamber folk. The latter is especially evident in “The Weaving Song,” where Tim’s solemn baritone and banjo playing corresponds beautifully with Fit’s autoharp and Limo’s harmonium, guitar, clay drums, sitar and tablas.

But the further we go into this album the more cosmic and droning things tend to get. But even in the most intensely meditative and ambient textures like in the Popul Vuh-inspired synth/harp/mandolin/mellotron/bass/noise piece "In den Gärten Salomos," there’s something that keeps us right on the foundation of folk music, thus preventing the album to point in too many directions.

I found it pretty difficult to describe this record in words but I know for sure that the exquisite and fragile music of Fit & Limo continues to amaze and Terra Incognita only further mystifies the deeply spiritual vista where their music can be found.


Monday, January 24, 2005

From The Wire issue 252:

The Lost Domain “Sailor, Home from the Sea” (Broken Face/Digitalis)

The coasts of Brisbane, Australia have washed up in the flotsam and jetsam avant ensemble The Lost Domain. Despite being in existence since the late ‘80s, this joint release between labels in Oklahoma and Sweden is the nearest they have yet come to a wider audience. More’s the pity, because Sailor, Home from the Sea, drawn from live recordings made in Brisbane in 2004, is a magnificent suite of nautical dreamtime musings worthy of considerable attention. The multiple psuedonymous members create soundscapes imbued with a taut lethargy, the ceaseless yearning drift of an exiled consciousness forged on the meeting of the endlessness of the ocean and the vastness of the outback. These sublime visions look out to the water, and the sailor’s communion in their own insignificance, becalmed and beleaguered drones hinting at the depths while simultaneously squinting sunblinded at the sky’s glare. The bookening “(On) The Waterfront, Parts 1 & 2” impress the most, the incrementally building drone carrying the muttered, rambling, vocal, an urgent voice overwhelmed and suffocated, urging “I can’t stand the smell of the house no more” and longing for release in the fathoms of the sea.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Greyscale “Cruel Machine” (Camera Obscura)

This is not exactly new and it’s not even the kind of stuff I usually write about on this blog. But when something is this accomplished and high caliber I am not going to let such irrelevant facts stop me from spreading some praise over one of 2004’s finest instrumental rock (or post rock if you will) albums. Imagine the sparse Kraut-inspired note, sense for melody and swelling dissonant washes of white noise and throbbing discordance that characterize Kinski and you’re in the right ballpark, but what sets these Australians apart is the array of instruments in acation. On top of the old ”guitar-bass-drums” trinity we get controlled storms of electronic instrumentation, space banjo and not the least Paul Rigby’s amazing pedal steel playing. The latter is best shown in the gracefully meandering “Flight On Hundred” which combines the dynamics of build up rock with pedal steel guitar with surprising ease. “Tryptanology” is a gently floating sound affair with plenty of layers making up the ornamental whole, which impress not only because of the aural depth but also due to the fair dose of lovely restraint and heartache. The spacey “Bohemian Astronaut” is another higlight with processed handclaps (which actually sounds more like a table tennis match than hand claps) tiptoeing around droning melancholia.

It’s not difficult to imagine reviews of “Cruel Machine” mentioning Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor as influences and although that’s not entirely wrong I’d rather place them side by side with folks like Kinski and Dirty Three.


Friday, January 14, 2005

Harris Newman Accidents with Nature... (Strange Attractors)

Way back in the early/mid ’90s, tired of all the lo-fi and indie rock that had been just about everything I had listened to in recent years, I wanted to get out of all that and my way out was through the genius of John Fahey. Admittedly, it took some time before I really saw the mastermind of Fahey but hearing some of his music truly opened doors that I didn’t even know existed.

Canadian Harris Newman has a similar approach to music in the sense that he goes out of his way to merge different musical styles and cultures. Unlike the deeply spiritual (and highly recommended) predecessor, Newman’s brand new album Accidents with Nature And Each Other goes far beyond being another Fahey-esque guitar album. We still get plenty of fingerpicking along the Takoma axis but the package is way more grand and complex this time out. The languid guitar structures are flavored with a fair bit of tasty experimentalism and acoustic drones. The way the sounds move back and forth from the abstract and droning to the compositional and folky makes me feel like I'm in some weird state of awareness where it’s hard to make out of if I am dreaming or if the vision for my eyes is the actual reality. The ghostly droning steel string landscapes of “It’s a Trap (Part 1)” provides just that sort of dreamlike hypnosis, but before you know it we’re all back in the midst of Newman’s quietly intense, subtly dynamic and desolate acoustic guitar sound. The result of all this is a rather diverse trek through the outer possibilites of the acoustic guitar and if you ask me it just doesn’t get much better. Definitely an early contender for upcoming top 2005 lists.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Upcoming projects

Broken Face Recordings and Digital Recordings have after the success with the Lost Domain’s Sailor, Home from the Sea started discussing new possible joint projects. The thing we’re working on right now is definitely going to blow some minds away and we’re confident that it will be as appreciated as our previous outings. It’s still a bit early to reveal all the details but stay tuned for updates. Expect the disc to be out sometime early spring. I am sure it will be worth the wait…


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Top 2004

I really love and hate doing end of the year lists, but here we go...

1. Hush Arbors "Since We Have Fallen" (Foxglove)
2. Charalambides "Joy Shapes" (Kranky)
3. Kemialliset Ystävät "Alkuhärkä" (Fonal)
4. Christina Carter "Living Contact" (Kranky)
5. Stuart Busby "Breathe" (Kindling)
6. Sky Green Leopards "One Thousand Bird Ceremony" (Soft Abuse)
7. Black Forest/Black Sea "Radiant Symmetry " (Last Visible Dog
8. Islaja "Meritie" (Fonal)
9. The Lost Domain "Sailor, Home from the Sea" (BF/Digitalis)
10. Hala Strana "These Villages" (Soft Abuse)
11. Jack Rose "Raag Manifestos" (VHF)
12. The Ivytree "Winged Leaves" (Catsup Plate)
13. Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood "Animal Speak" (Musicyourmind)
14. Alphane Moon/Our Glassie Azoth "Experimenting..." (Oggum)
15. The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden "Owl of Fives" (Textile)
16. Marissa Nadler "Ballads of Living and Dying" (Eclipse)
17. Xenis Emputae Travelling Band "The Hieroglyphic..." (Deserted Village)
18. Testbild! "The Inexplicable Feeling of September" (Friendly Noise)
19. Volcano the Bear "The Idea of Wood" (Textile)
20. Bardo Pond & Tom Carter "4/23/03" (3 Lobed)
21. Nagisa Ni Te “The Same as a Flower (Jagjaguwar)
22. Tanakh "Dieu Deuil" (Alien8)
23. Six Organs of Admittance "The Manifestation" (Strange Attractors)
24. Scatter “Surprising Sing Stupendous Love” (Pickled Egg)
25. Sandoz Lab Technicians "Everythings Fifteen" (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)

And just outside the top 25: Ghost, Peter Wright, Glenn Jones, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Davenport, Douglad Ferguson, Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words, Juniper Meadows, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Greyscale, Kinski, Growing, Brian Wilson, Kang Tae Hwan Trio, North Sea, Oddfellows Casino, Phosphene, Råd Kjetil and The Loving Eye of God and many more.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Foxy Digitalis blog

My Oklahoma-based friend Brad Rose of the incredible Digitalis label and Foxy Digitalis ’zine recently decided to enter the world of blogs. I am definitely one of those whose going to check it out on a regular basis. I suggest that you do the same.

Foxy Digitalis blog
Foxy Digitalis ‘zine
Digitalis Recordings


Monday, January 10, 2005

Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood
Animal Speaks (Musicyourmindwillloveyou)

Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood’s center figure Michael Donnelly resides in Kyogle, a tiny Australian town that stands in the middle of one of the country’s largest rainforests. The stunning mountain scenery, the rainforests surrounding the town and the remnant magma chamber of an extinct and enormous volcano that can be found nearby is all over the place when listening to Animal Speaks, their debut album on their own MusicYourMindWillLoveYou imprint. That being said, this is diverse trek through the outer regions of acoustic improvisations, tribal folk eruptions, forested drones, roaring psychedelia, strangely fractured folk-scapes, and even then there’s still a unifying cohesion to what’s going on here.

The beautiful psychedelic folk inflections of the opening ”On Agar” is one of the album’s unquestionable highlights. It starts out in the middle of a fascinating cello landscape but before you know it, we’re all stuck in an intricate web of plucking guitar.

The equally confusing and rewarding sister songs "The Light of Life" and "The Life of Light," which stretches out its chaotic yet subtle instrumental tentacles in a classic jam fashion for over twenty minutes, take cues from the liquid trance states of Acid Mothers Temple and the most organic side of the Jewelled Antler collective. Then “I Would Rather Live on the Sun” is something completely different with its buzzing improvisations, low frequency drones and quiet circular groove. It’s a piece that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Sunroof! album and if that’s not a compliment I am not sure what is.

Animal Speaks is the sort of mind-bending album that is bound to exhaust as much as mesmerize and I can unreservedly recommend it to everyone even remotely interested in the drone/folk/psych/improv universe. This feels like a monumental release to my ears and as such it’s one of my 2004 favorites.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Playlist #12

Brothers of the Occult... Animal Speak (Musicyourmind...)
Kitchen Cynics Master of the Fuzzy Fadeout (Self-released)
Harris Newman Accidents with Nature... (Strange Attractors)
Eugene Carchesio/Leighton Craig Leaves (Kindling)
Avarus Jätpiläisrotta (Secret Eye)
Big Huge Crown Your Head with Flowers (Secret Eye)
Lasse Marhaug The Shape of Rock... (Smalltown Supersound)
Fit & Limo Terra Incognita (September Gurls)
Philip Johnston Sundaram (Self-released)
Greyscale Cruel Machine (Camera Obscura)
Bird Show Green Inferno (Kranky)


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Back home

Just a quick note to let you all know that I got back from Australia late last night. We've had a great time down under and I'll make sure to let you know more about the whole thing further down the line...

Take care and happy new year!