Monday, May 30, 2005

Jarl Akatisi/Somnolens (Tantric Harmonies)

I’ve tried to scribble down a few words about this release for a few days now, but the weather has simply been a bit too nice to get in the right mood for the ice-clad drones and electronically generated ambience of Erik Jarl. Jarl’s minimal, crackling drone vendetta is of the claustrophobic and at times even industrial kind, which perfectly accompanies the rain-soaked view from my living room window. At its best the wavering minimal tones are so dark and entrancing that they’re likely to affect you both on a sonic and physical level. It could be argued that this has been done before but when performed in this impeccable way I am not the one that’s going to complain.


Friday, May 27, 2005

Mecha Fixes Clocks Orbiting with Screwdrivers (Alien8)

It’s always with a great sense of curiosity and anticipation that I approach a new release from the Canadian Alien8 imprint. Not only because they have a rare talent of finding some of the most stunning experimental music out there, but also since you never can be quite sure what to expect. Mecha Fixes Clocks further cements that way of thinking as it shows yet another color of the label’s already impressive palette.

Mecha Fixes Clocks is the work of Montreal experimentalist Michael F. Coté although he has invited a wide range of musical friends to add fragments to his sparse, yet detailed sonic sculpture. The minimalistic soundscapes are austere, hushed, detailed, and beautiful. The frosty north meets rich tonal colors of ambient washes in an abstract sound world constructed from all sorts of electronics, keyboard, accordion, piano, guitar, viola, trumpet, clarinet, trumpet, home made instruments, samplers and machines. Unlike what you might expect from reading such a list the sound of Mecha Fixes Clocks is the one with lots of space between the notes and where the small gestures is what make things move. In its most horn-laced moments I hear a resemblance with Rachels but then in others it’s similar to Sam Shalabi and the most moody side of the Norwegian Rune Grammofon imprint. Nice.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wolf Eyes Fuck Pete Larsen (Wabana)

Here’s another addition to Wabana’s "Re-issue the LP" campaign. First out is Michigan’s Wolf Eyes who recently found a new surprising home at the Sub Pop residence in Seattle. The more I listen to this trio’s high pitched tones and fractured vibrations, electronic squeaks and chirps, hand-triggered drum machines, ocean deep bass tones, ominous drones and damaged electronic-noise/punk the stranger such a partnership seems. But no one is happier than me that these pioneers of old school analog electronic equipment, that deservedly has been compared to folks like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, early Nurse With Wound, SPK, Einstürzende Neubauten, Factrix and Whitehouse, get some recognition and a fair chance to reach out as far out as possible. The crawling and stumbling drones presented here comes wrapped in a dark cloth of feedback, distortion and shiploads of abstract surrealism. All in all this is still a surprisingly sparse listen but rather than working as a background companion this is the kind of disc that will follow you to sleep and be ready to kick right in when it’s time for that monthly nightmare to arrive.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Charlie Schmidt Xanthe Terra (Strange Attractors)
Shawn Persinger The Art of Modern Primitive Guitar (Innova)

I’ve praised new popularizers of the acoustic folk guitar like Jack Rose, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Glenn Jones and Harris Newman beyond belief for pretty much the entire ‘00s. Luckily the list of fascinating contemporary purveyors of the Takoma tradition doesn’t stop there, as these two “new” names proves capable of standing side by side with the ones mentioned above. I am particularly fond of Charlie Schmidt’s beautiful and desolate acoustic guitar sound, which bends and disappears like the ocean ebbs and flows. There is a profound respect for the late John Fahey present here which doesn’t really come as a surprise given the man’s history. According to the press kit Schmidt befriended Fahey as a young man in 1981 and Fahey vigorously encouraged Schmidt to follow his own musical path and discover his own voice. It came to pass, in the early 90's, that Fahey was requested to re-record his second album Vol. II: Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes for re-release. As a ruse, Fahey had Schmidt record all of the songs ostensibly as Fahey himself. In order to be compensated, four new "bonus" tracks were included, which happened to be Charlie Schmidt originals. The project was shelved; fast-forward to 2004, three years after Fahey's death, and the release of The Best of Fahey Vol. II on Fantasy. Included were three titles billed as previously unreleased, newly uncovered Fahey gems. These are actually Schmidt's performances, and one of the pieces is a Schmidt composition that Fahey admired ("Hyattsville Anti-Inertia Dance"). This is all very confusing but the main point is very much clear: Charlie Schmidt is an amazing guitarist that walks beautifully around Fahey’s most melodic and melancholic footsteps, but without ever stepping into a single one. Xanthe Terra is Schmidt’s debut album and the only negative aspect I can think of is that we had to wait for so long to hear these subtle, emotionally rich and surprisingly melodic acoustic landscapes.

Shawn Persinger is slightly more avant and primitive in his way of approaching the acoustic guitar. Imagine the fingerpicking style of Leo Kottke and blend that with folks like Eugene Chadbourne (Persinger for instance has an predilection for using the guitar body as a percussive instrument) and John Zorn and you’re in the right ballpark. Persinger describes his music as a world of content musical paradoxes and to some extent I guess that’s true as this CD nicely glides from dark passages to catchy pieces and just when you’re expecting a traditional song structure to blossom it’s all torn to pieces by some unexpected changes in tempo, dissonance or aggressiveness. Fingerstyle folk guitar meets unusual musical techniques and avant-garde in an impressive and inspiring way.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ink Puddle Compound Blood Modulators (Grotto Mimosa)

This relatively short CD-R is the first document to arrive from one-man ensemble Ink Puddle Compound after his successful debut album Tantrum Seas and Dust Lanes (Camera Obscura). Just like on the debut we’re served an interesting blend of experimental electronica and finely textured folk-pop.

Brandon Siscoe’s dreamy sound world and heavily phased vocals is rather difficult to describe as it surely leans towards the darker side of things but at the same time I am somewhat tempted to place this under the minimal pop moniker. To some degree I guess these seductive dripping drones, hazy pieces of melancholia and fractured soundscapes have something in common with bands like Hood, Piano Magic, Disco Inferno and Bark Psychosis but there’s also something distinctly darker, if not even despairing. This EP clocks in at just over 17 minutes and if this one is any indicator of the qualities of the upcoming album there’s no doubt I’ll need that one as well.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

1 Mile North, Colophon & the Wind-Up Bird
Conduction. Convection. Radiation. (Music Fellowship)

It’s Sunday morning and despite our wishes from last night our daughter unfortunately decided to follow her regular morning routine. I am not going to go into details about all that but it basically means that she wants to get up a few hours earlier than her parents. 1 Mile North, Colophon & the Wind-Up’s glacial drones and subtle minimalism is the perfect companion for these conditions, music for not being quite awake and for illustrating a town that yet has to awake.

Conduction. Convection. Radiation. is the third edition in Music Fellowship’s Triptych Series, which combines EP-length recordings from three like-minded bands on a single CD. 1 Mile North is Jon Hills on guitar and Mark Bajuk on analogue synthesizers, and it’s difficult to think of anything more relaxing as their sound seems to be all about harmonic guitar patterns and organic resonance. It’s simply glorious slow-motion drones that are surprisingly soul stirring and emotional.

Given the fact that Colophon is the solo project of Tarentel’s Jefre Cantu-Ledesma the steady, seemingly unending stream of blurry ambience doesn’t come as a big surprise, but these ringing drones and synthetic swells are still decidedly more stripped down than Tarentel.

The Wind-Up Bird explores a similarly downcast vibe but the outcome strikes me as more diverse as it walks the tightrope between computerized soundscapes and dreamlike violin compositions. This might strike you as an odd combination but like the rest of this three-way split CD it works successfully and that doesn’t only apply for Sunday mornings.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Franciscan Hobbies Walls Are Stuck (Music Fellowship)

I’ve already written so many positive reviews about the Jewelled Antler band The Franciscan Hobbies that I am beginning to feel that I am repeating myself. Their fourth full-length album continues to explore the abstract side of folkscapes with the aid of hypnotic folk/drone improvisations, quiet noise and ceremonies of corrosive string massage. Walls Are Stuck does strike me as their most structured and melodic listen yet though, which at times makes this release nod discreetly towards the kind of mellow organic psychedelia Glenn Donaldson often tend to focus on when playing solo. But don’t be fooled to be believe that this one includes any multi-layered psych-pop, as it rather tends to focus on droning darkness and beautifully messy organic tapestries of sound. The natural components might not be as visible as on previous outings, but it still equals the most beautiful natural vista I can think of and if that's not praise I am not sure what is.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Sunburned Hand of the Man s/t (Wabana)

Sunburned hand of the Man is in my world one of those bands that always tend to walk right on the border between masterful sonic hypnotism and psychedelic jams that from time to time loose focus and intensity. This self-titled reissue of an all too limited live document definitely belongs to the first category, as it very well might be the finest Sunburned material I’ve heard to this day.

What we get is four epic tracks, which provide big doses of mauling tribal folk frenzy, and unstoppable free jazz rhythms that are likely to find you with the mouth wide open. This self-titled disc is overall a happy and joyful outing that marriages beautiful psychedelic folk inflections, lovely Krautrock grooves and noisy hippie jams along the lines of Amon Düül with free jazz wig-outs. There’s a spiritual resonance and intoxicating serenity that earlier Sunburned releases only has hinted at, and that fact certainly makes me eager to see these cats in the live setting. The energy, the beauty and the writhing communal spirit that’s present here will probably have an even stronger impact if experienced live. As if all this wasn’t enough it comes in a generic purple digipak sleeve with clear sticker attached featuring the original LP artwork. Very nice!


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fricara Pacchu Waydom (Lal Lal Lal)
The Skaters Crowned Purple Gowns (Lal Lal Lal)

If there’s any contemporary label that could pull off the difficult task of promoting the cassette format it’s probably the amazing Finnish Lal Lal Lal imprint. To tell you the truth I couldn’t care less about the format of Fricara Pacchu’s Waydom though, as it’s such an impressive slab of primitive folk clatter, deranged psychedelia, motorik krautrock and feedback-riddled ceremonies. Waydom is like an uncontrollable volcano of instrumentation floating together to an impressive and majestic lava flow, initially interesting for its power more than the mind-puzzling polyrhythmic structures laying beneath, that doesn't strike me until much later. It’s like a pulsating tangle of the styles mentioned above and it’s all repeated till it invokes a sinister aural nightmare. Waydom has the shamanic and somewhat tribal feel of Avarus and Siamese Temple Ball but is still sounds modern in a Sunroof! meets Dead C kind of way. Essential.

The Skaters might already be a household name to some of you and if that’s the case I think you already know what to do. The rest of you might as well start with Crowned Purple Gowns as with anything else as it displays more of the kind of humming resonance, droning hypnotism and feedback-drenched ritualism that we’ve come to expect from these guys. When thinking about it, it’s truly amazing how shards of feedback and hot pools of distortion can sound this beautiful, if not even spiritual. Crowned Purple Gowns offers damaged extended sound sculptors, dusted sonic planes and corroded noise destruction that at the same time actually manages to be transportational and even meditative.


Friday, May 13, 2005

We just got these exciting news from our friends at Broken Face Recordings...

Volcano the Bear Catonapotato

Broken Face Recordings and Digitalis Recordings are proud to announce the arrival of a new CD from Volcano the Bear, an amazing folk/drone/free jazz/improv combo out of Leicester, England. The discs are being shipped across the pond as we speak and will hopefully be here by the end of next week. More information about the disc can be found in the press information included at the end of this message.

The price for the disc is $12 (postage included) or the equivalent amount in Euros, £, SEK or Norwegian Crowns.Payment can preferably be arranged by Paypal to thebrokenface@spray.se but well-concealed cash in the mail will also do the trick nicely. Send cash to:

Mats Gustafsson
Brovagen 14
610 72 Vagnharad

Volcano the Bear Catonapotato (Broken Face/Digitalis)
Certain things just need to be seen and heard to be believed. One of these things is to experience England, Leicester combo Volcano the Bear in the live setting. Nothing I ever say will accurately describe that evening last year 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 it goes without saying that it was a night of pure magic and brilliance.

Volcano the Bear was formed in 1995 with the constant idea of being a group with uncompromising and boundless ideas, and they’ve always 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 key words such as surreal, shifting moods, myriad of instruments, humor, beauty and to a certain degree even 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, disjointed percussive riffs, crackling electronics and actually own more than one record by either the Sun City Girls, This Heat, Faust, Residents, The Shadow Ring or Captain Beefheart than you owe it to yourself to check these cats out.

If you’re not as lucky as me when it comes to attending Volcano the Bear shows I am happy to report that Catonapotato is a perfect example of what they are capable of in the live setting. All eight tracks presented here were recorded live by the duo of Aaron Moore and Nick Mott at four different occasions in 2004. These four shows took place in Leicester (England), Paris (France), Norrköping (Sweden) and Sheffield (England) and all broadcasts different sides of this talented duo. The number of styles explored throughout seems endless, though words like free, folk and jazz keep popping into my head. Catonapotato is not necessarily free jazz or free folk, but it does indeed display music that is completely free from any sort of constraint and structure. It just floats along however it wants to with the aid of squeaking and skronking horns, corrosive string massage and hypnotic drums that more than once approaches the tribal. It’s mainly an instrumental affair although some vocals come up on a few tracks and as if all this wasn’t enough we’re served some incongruous electric guitar rhythms that recalls the Sun City Girls at their very best.

All in all, it's just a brilliant sonic excursion down a musical path very few are brave enough to follow these days, and along the way the band manages to explain exactly why the true environment for Volcano the Bear is the live setting. If you never have come across this band before I honestly believe that you never have heard anything quite like it. This is meditation music for the drone/noise generation.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

V/A Jar (Pickled Egg)

When doing the Broken Face ‘zine it happened that I thought about our activities as the fanzine version of Leicester, England label Pickled Egg. I am not implying that we were close to their consistent quality but the way we approached music somehow seems similar. The only real determining factor when it comes to deciding whether a release ends up on Pickled Egg or not seems to be if they like it. That’s always how we worked with the ’Face and in the case of Pickled Egg the result is one of the most consistently great, diverse and multi-faceted labels on the planet. If you don’t believe me all you need to do is to listen to their brand new double CD compilation, which covers just about every single aspect of what they do.

We get the collage/electro pop of Japanese Pop-Off Tuesday, the gloriously soft-spoken folk pop of Oddfellows Casino, the genre-defying improvisations and heavy rhythmic workouts of Bablicon, Need New Body’s sonic weirdness and humor, the loose but highly hallucinogenic folk jams of Scatter, the hazy sort of cinematic pop bliss that characterizes George, 100 Pets’ minimal pop-scapes, Hassle Hounds’ unusual samples and twisted electronics, the sublimely orchestrated pop of Farina and Big Eyes, the free-flowing improvisations, tasty Krautrock grooves and jazz flourishes of Zukanican and Volcano the Bear’s two contributions are just as completely free from any sort of constraint and structure as anything we’ve heard from these cats before. I could go on and describe the sonic world of L’augmentation, Daniel Johnston, The Go! Team, Savoy Grand, Butchy Fuego, Le Bleu, Now, Guliver, Dragon or Emperor, Valvola and Dj Spectra, Evolution Control Committee, Caruso, 4tRECK and Marshmallow Coast but I think the point might already have come across. This is a great introduction to a label that continues to amaze. Join the Pickled Egg fan club today.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Playlist #18

The Franciscan Hobbies Walls Are Stuck CD (Music Fellowship)
Sunburned Hand of the Man s/t CD (Wabana)
Jarl Akatisi/Somnolens CD (Tantric Harmonies)
Hush Arbors Death Calligraphy 3” CD (Musicyourmindwillloveyou)
Wolf Eyes Fuck Pete Larsen CD (Wabana)
Acid Mothers Temple Born To Be Wild in the USA CD (Wabana)
V/A Jar: a Pickled Egg Collection 2CD (Pickled Egg)
The Skaters Crowned Purple Gowns CS (Lal Lal Lal)
Shawn Persinger The Art of Modern/Primitive Guitar CD (Innova)
Hall of Fame Superstring Theory 7” (Lal Lal Lal)


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Gilbert Play Slope (Dreamboat Music)

The term post rock is in many ways such a discredited word. I agree that one can argue about the genre classification itself and quite a few incredibly tedious followers, but no matter that some of the early post rock albums should really be seen as some of the most pivotal work of the ‘90s. There’s always a risk with exemplifying but I am among other things referring to Tortoise’s self-titled debut, their 1996's Millions Now Living Will Never Die album and pretty much all of Labradford’s mid ‘90s albums. These guys deserve better than to be pigeonholed with a devalued genre name. The same goes for Stockholm one-man ensemble A Gilbert Play, but his blend of subtle electronica, ambient, avant pop bliss, krautrock, minimalism and jazz will unquestionably give lazy reviewers an easy way out. But on top of the Chicago inspirations there’s also loads of emotionally rich soundscapes and sonic hallucinations similar to the under-appreciated English combo Fridge, and that’s obviously not a bad thing. Despite being decidedly electronic the whole thing is also very organic, which might come from the ample use of the vibraphone or maybe it’s just a matter of A Gilbert Play’s talent for penning melodies draped in a sense of timeless melancholy. The latter is especially evident in the stunning “How to Make a Bird (Just Above Your Head)” which sounds like the more electronic work of Sagor & Swing.

With the aid of bass, guitars, drums, vibraphone, keyboards, various electronics and computer A Gilbert Play conjures an intelligent but yet relaxed sound that wades in the shimmering waters of electronic dreamscapes. The result is an album that is beautiful, melancholic and full of warm emotions and which despite its various influences comes highly recommended.