Thursday, March 31, 2005

Earth Living in the Gleam of an Unsheathed Sword (Megablade)

Unfortunately I just missed the chance to see SunnO))) when they played in Stockholm the other week, and given the immediate impact of their cousin Earth’s brand new live album Living In The Gleam Of An Unsheathed Sword I know for a fact that I should have tried harder to change the schedule. These masters of feverishly minimal, drone-heavy doom riffage have been around for more than a decade now and with every release they seem to slightly move a step away from the most abstract side of things, to something slightly more song-oriented (yes, I realize that I use that term loosely here). We get two tracks that clock in at just over 70 minutes where the first delivers an impressive wall of repetitive guitar fuzz, but the one that truly sets the house on fire is the title track which hosts some sort of trance-inducing primal rhythmic energy which characterizes a lot of this stuff when it’s this good. Squealing guitar lines and heavy riffage are laid over hypnotic, hard-hitting drums and although the results not are quite up there with the band’s classic Earth 2 I am still certain that long-time fans will dig this. These kind of thick waves of monolithic riffs are certainly not for all tastes, but I’m sure at least a few of you would find this interesting. I quite like it myself.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Øyvind Holm The Vanishing Act (Cutwater Records)

Looking back at things it seems like different musical styles have moved in and out of my life with some sort of cyclical pattern. One of very few genres that so far have managed to stand over this listening model is the kind of quality marked psych pop that Trondheim’s Dipsomaniacs have made their trademark. Given all this it doesn’t come as a big surprise that I am the first to celebrate the arrival of Dipsomaniacs’ frontman Øyvind Holm’s first solo album.

Those of you have fallen in love with the mothership’s soaring ’60s pop elements, effervescent popcraft, folk/country flourishes and sparkling harmonies will not be disappointed as The Vanishing Act continues along a similar axis. Compared to the band’s most recent outings this might be a bit more straightforward and stipped down but it still provides a complex and highly impressive listen. This is an album I know I’ll keep returning to on a regular basis.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

From Quagmire Habitats in the Wound (VHF)

I have always liked From Quagmire a lot but I have never fallen completely under their spell until Habitats in the Wound arrived at my doorstep a cpl of weeks back. On the trio’s third album they still present slowly unfolding avant-folk songs that are full of mystery and suspense, but where Tropic of Barren and Caught In Unknowing sometimes veered off into highly percussive and noisy sections this is mostly a subtle and mellow sound affair.

What makes things utterly successful is that the album despite its downcast tone still strikes me as impressively dynamic. From Quagmire manages to do something restrained that's still wild and sonically challenging. Dorothy Geller's voice and nylon string guitar meanders beautifully around dark bowing cello, intricate electric guitar, various collages, violin, clarinet and there’s even some tasty electronics thrown in for good measure. The electronics comes from the very capable hands of Simon Wickham-Smith and as Sharon Krauss also lent her incredible talent to this already impressive combo it doesn’t come as a surprise that this is a must have for any fan of dark avant-folk.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Braspyreet Maamme Laulu (Digitalis)

In a recent e-mail correspondence with an American friend of mine he mentioned that he during his quite recent stay in Scandinavia noticed how everything felt so clean and efficient in Sweden, but that Finland somehow didn't quite feel the same way. It’s an interesting observation that to some degree probably is true. Sweden has always been a bit more put together, whereas Finland kind of feels a little crazier. This might not be obvious on all levels but in terms of music I think it is. The latest proof to my hypothesis is Braspyreet’s chaotic free jazz skronk/noise/whatnot, here presented on the always-intriguing Digitalis imprint. It’s not that Sweden doesn’t have some talented free jazz musicians, it’s probably even the other way around but there’s something primal, manic and downright surreal about these compositions that rarely has been heard on any Swedish album. Braspyreet create a very fucked up racket at times and along the way they manage to display an aspect of the Finnish underground that sometimes seems to be neglected and even forgotten.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Malmö, March 20th

I just got back from a great, heavily music-oriented weekend in Malmö. Besides hanging out with a number of friends I was also fortunate enough to see the amazing Providence ensemble urdog live and to play a DJ set before and after their show. I’ve had some requests to post my playlist so here we go:

Charalambides ”Gypsy Woman”
Siamese Temple Ball "1"
Kemialliset Ystävät ”Salainen Paikka”
Alastair Galbraith ”Bellbird”
Juneau ”Harmon Beat Theater”
The Ponys ”Anywhere with Oxygen”
Oddfellows Casino ”Pu the Bird to Sleep”
Six Organs of Admittance ”This Hand"
Steffen Basho-Junghans ”Rainbow Dancing”
Harris Newman ”It’s a Trap (part 1)”
The Lost Domain ”Night Boat”
Tower Recordings ”Q Delmak-O”
The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden ”Preamble”
The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden ”Singing Norway to Sleep”
Salamander ”Galleon”
Omit ”Section 2”
Alphane Moon ”An Open Entrance”
Alphane Moon ”Circle of Four”
Agitation Free ”You Play for Us Today”
Sun City Girls ”Chamelon 2000”


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Playlist #15

Traveling Bell Scatter Ways (Secret Eye)
Urdog Eyelid of Moon (Secret Eye)
From Quagmire Habitats in the Wound (VHF)
Øyvind Holm The Vanishing Act (Cutwater)
Braspyreet Maamme Laulu (Digitalis)
Makoto Kawabata INUI.3 (VHF)
Long Live Death Bound to the Wheel (Secret Eye)
Six Organs of Admittance School of the Flower (Drag City)
Juneau s/t (Ba Da Bing!)
Steffen Basho-Junghans Rivers and Bridges (Strange Attractors)


Thursday, March 10, 2005

A quick reminder...

The Broken Face blog has been nominated as one of 50 contenders for "The best Swedish blog award". If you want to vote for BF (or someone else for that matter) go to Internetworld and scroll down to kultur…

np: Christina Carter "Living Contact"


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Lost Domain update

Our friends at Broken Face Recordings asked us to let you guys know that the repress of the Lost Domain's Sailor, Home from the Sea finally is here. Send an e-mail to the BF headquarters if you're interested in picking up a copy.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Tigersmilk From the Bottle (Family Vineyard)
Cold Bleak Heat It’s Magnificent, But It Isn’t War (Family Vineyard)

To the annoyance of the rest of my family I often find myself listening to one specific genre for a cpl of days before shifting focus again. Most of the time this is really not a problem but when those periods lean towards the free jazz or noise spectrum I tend to use my headphones a whole lot more than I usually do. Anyway, after listening to all sorts of psychedelic folk for a cpl of weeks now I am starting to feel the need for some skronking free jazz. The combination of my wife being out of town and a tasty package from the always-impressive Family Vineyard imprint turns out to be a perfect combination.

First out is From the Bottle, the second album from Tigersmilk, which is the trio of cornetist, electronicist and laptop magician Rob Mazurek, acoustic bassist Jason Roebke and percussionist Dylan van der Schyff. The six epic tracks that make up the album walk the precarious tightrope between free jazz, more traditional jazz styles and bizarre electronic insanity in an utterly compelling way. This gives the whole thing a very pleasant blend of ear-piercing free jazz, relatively structured melodies and atmospheric abstraction that is really difficult to escape from. The unplanned beauty and nervous intensity that is present here sounds like an organic dance of sound that continues all the way through the disc’s 68 minutes.

The line-up of Cold Bleak Heat will probably have any free jazz/improv/psychedelia/drone fan’s mouth watering as it finds saxophonist Paul Flaherty, percussionist Chris Corsano, trumpeter Greg Kelley and acoustic bassist Matt Heyner in the very same loft space. Besides doing solo stuff these talented musicians have played in acclaimed combos such No Neck Blues Band, Test, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Six Organs of Admittance, nmperign, Heathen Shame, IZITITIZ and so many others it would take me the entire review just to list them. This is probably all you need to know but if that’s not the case I am happy to inform you that what these guys are capable of together well live up to their respective names. Flaherty's Ayler-inspired alto/tenor saxophone blurts, Corsano's colorful drum patterns, Kelley's faltering trumpet lines and Heyner’s grounding bass together manage to construct the kind of rousing, emotional effect I'm looking for when it comes to this sort of roaring improv. But luckily It’s Magnificent, But It Isn’t War doesn’t only provide plenty of room for ecstatic clatter and a powerful cosmic flow but also invites us to subtle breathing holes that make the louder sections even more impressive.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Chris Thompson s/t (Scenesof)
Chris Thompson For My Double (Wild Rose Music)

Sometimes you’re just plain lucky. You know the times when you don’t really deserve it but you’re blessed with something so brilliant that it can make you believe in those higher forces everyone so obsessively seem to be talking about. That’s what happened when I out of the blue received a few years old reissue of New Zealander Chris Thompson’s self-titled album from the fall of 1973. If there is such a thing as releases cursed with bad luck this one might very well take the cake. According to the rumor most of the copies were destroyed by the distributor, Transatlantic Records, as an insurance scam after the latest Pentangle LP, Reflection so only 101 copies were ever sold, the other 899 destroyed. So it comes as no surprise that the album was virtually unheard until the good folks of the Massachusetts-based Scenesof label once more made it available to a wider audience.

From a sonic point of view it’s not only hard to see why it only sold 101 copies, it’s a fucking crime! Upon exploring Thompson’s music for the first time it only took me a few minutes to sense the classicness of every single psych-tinged folk note. Just like with someone like Donovan and Mark Fry there is a timelessness and fragile beauty to the chords and arrangements that probably never will make it to magnetic tape ever again. Not because there aren’t some fantastic folk musicians around, no rather that it despite its timeless feel still is a record of its time and place, full of visions from the sort of towns we had back then. I am not trying romanticize what once was as I probably could spend the rest of my life doing nothing but reading literature along those lines, and although experiencing the late ‘60s and early ‘70s could be interesting from a historical point of view that’s not at all what I am after. No, I am happy to be here right now and get to see those times through the music of folks like Chris Thompson.

For My Double provides a “thirty years on” perspective as it was released on Thompson’s own Wild Rose label at the very end of 2004. I wouldn’t be quite honest if I’d say that this one equals the excellent debut album described above but it sure has its rewarding moments. I am fond of the sax-laced jazz/folk/pop nugget “Just Want to See Your Face” but my personal favorite moments on the record is unquestionably when we get nothing but Thompson’s vocals and acoustic slide guitar, like in the title track and the upbeat and catchy “The Terror of the Spanish Man”. Generally speaking I’d say that For My Double leans as much more towards blues and rock as folk, but then we have the surprisingly experimental “Step Into My Office” and “Them Extreme Sports” which both are one of a kind with the unorthodox electric mandolin/oscillator/guitar/hand drum/tambourine instrumentation. I guess you could say that I am missing a bit of the timeless folk feel from the debut album, but on the other hand it’s relieving that an artist you admire not tries to copy what once was and instead walks into new sonic territories.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Pinkie Maclure & John Willis Cat’s Cradle (Trefingle)

I am not sure if it’s the harsh winter or not, but I’ve found myself listening to a whole lot of abstract, multi-layered folk music lately. Last is this row of musicians that go out of their way to redefine what’s consider to be folk is the UK’s Pinkie Maclure & John Willis.

On Cat’s Cradle traditional folk structures are placed against a backdrop of noises and unexpected sonic whims. The slightly gothic opener “The Bending Wood” is a fabulous track of a particularly reflective mood, offering quietly transporting and ritualistic music at its best. Another treasure is to be found in the traditional “Fine Flowers in the Valley” where we get Maclure’s warm and rich wide-range voice at its absolute best. The simple, beautiful melody is arranged with loads of traditional instruments (bells, lyre, concertina and probably more) in the most unexpected yet natural way, providing a discreet nod in the direction of German husband and wife duo Fit & Limo, and that’s rarely a bad thing.

Cat's Cradle is a concoction of all sort of dark folk that at its best rivals the uncrowned masters of the so-called “acid folk” scene, and if this one is any indicator I owe it to myself to also check out their debut album.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Yeah No Swell Henry (Squealer)

I know I’ve been waiting for a certain kind of jazz record for quite some time, but I’ve never been really sure what I wanted to hear until Yeah No’s Swell Henry arrived at my doorstep the other day. Chris Speed’s Yeah No quartet is definitely a free jazz combo but by including elements of folk, melodic jazz, Balkan references and downcast pop they manage to push it all in a slightly different direction. The graceful opener "She Has Four Thorns” sets the tone from the very beginning with accordion meandering over a riverbed of mellow horns. “Last Beginning” continues where the opener left off but as it evolves into hazy jazz pop and later borders skronky free jazz territories it’s no longer just a gloriously soft-spoken statement, but also the ultimate genre-defying proof of why I enjoy this recording so much. On "Camper Giorno," Yeah No continues to mix sections of crystal clear horn-laced melodies with grooves that inevitably will make your body move, no matter if you want it or not. This track includes some tasty mellotron work from Jamie Saft and given this I guess it doesn’t come as a big surprise that we besides trumpet, clarinet, sax, bass, drums, guitar and accordion also get snippets of keyboard and Wurlitzer. After a few gentle tracks it’s somewhat relieving to find the short “Flanked” packed with skronky free jazz/rock energy and the polyrhythmic “He Has A Pair Of Dice” is equally chaotic (but still surprisingly groovy and melodic) while the sad “Dead Water” more sounds like the mourning for a dead wife. This fragile piece is saturated with an inconsolable sense of loss but still includes some mysterious kind of beauty and hope for what is to come.

It’s difficult to describe in words what makes this release so successful but I believe that it might have something to do with its potential to create a never-ending loop between the mind and the heart. Fans of traditional jazz need this, free jazz fans should grab it, but most of all fans of soul-touching and innovative music owe it to themselves to check it out. Recommended.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Sharron Kraus Songs of Love And Loss (Camera Obscura).

Whilst shopping folk-inspired goods from the Australian Camera Obscura imprint you should also pick up Sharron Kraus’ Songs of Love And Loss. Kraus’ much-heralded debut album Beautiful Twisted was somehow equally rooted in Appalachian styles and dark English folk, but with this new release the latter genre is the one that unquestionably gets the podium position. Think of the balladeering style of Shirley Collins or a modern Anne Briggs and you’re in the right ballpark. The mood is downcast and wintry so I guess that it makes some kind of sense that it’s so cold outside our front door that I wouldn’t dream of going out. The lyrics are incredibly dark and like the title of the album suggests we get a fractured glimpse into all aspects of death and loss in general. Imagine looking over on the other side and seeing those things you've always been curious about but were afraid to confront. That’s exactly how it feels to listen to this album.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Playlist #14
Charalambides Our Bed Is Green (Kranky)
Pinkie Maclure & John Willis Cat’s Cradle (Trefingle)
Gold Sparkle Trio with Ken Vandermark Brooklyn Cantos (Squealer)
Sharron Kraus Songs of Love and Loss (Camera Obscura)
V/A This Side Up (Ptolemaic Terrascope)
The Skaters Palm Shaper (267 Lattajjaa)
yeah NO Swell Henry (Squealer)
V/A Everything Comes And Goes (Temporary Residence)
Damon Holzborn Adams & Bancroft (Accretions)
V/A A Snapshot from the 2005 Domino Ten-Day (Domino)