Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Back home...

Just a quick note to let you know that we got back home to Sweden from Providence a few hours ago. What an amazing event! There was so much good stuff it's even hard to know where to begin, but some of my favorite sets included:

Jack Rose
Bardo Pond
Glenn Jones
Kemialliset Ystävät
The Spacious Mind
Spires that in the Sunset Rise
Lightning Bolt
Magic Carpathians
Kitchen Cynics

But as much as Terrastock is about music it's about meeting up with new and old friends. I love you! Thanks to everyone for making it happen.


Friday, April 21, 2006

We got there...

We're currently in Providence, RI, suffering a bit from jetlag as well as from a certain amount of alcohol at the pre-Terrastock party last night. It's so exciting to meet everyone again and to see all these great bands.

Acid Mothers temple was last night's highlight. The way they moved from quiet folk structures to full-on krautrock/psych grooves was spectatcular. The festival kicks off in a cpl of hours...now off for brunch.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Terrastock 6

I am on my way home from work to do the final packing and then we’re on our way to Providence, RI. I am really excited about experiencing some of the finest bands on the planet in the live setting and to meet up with old and new friends. See you soon!


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gregg Kowalsky Through the Cardial Window (Kranky)

Oakland, CA-based Gregg Kowalsky’s Through the Cardial Window is an album based on micing and recording techniques that somehow manages to pull out hidden textures and frequencies from a wide array of sound sources. That might sound a bit technical and clinical but the sound coming out of Kowalsky’s magic drone machines is everything but clinical. We do get music that is all about sustained tones, harmonic patterns and resonance but it’s at the same time amazingly organic and even psychedelic in a blurry ambient kind of way.

Kowalsky’s dense soundscapes and glacial drones seep out of the speakers so successfully that they create moods and visual images for pretty much everyone with long attentions spans. Images suitable for soothing contemplation moves into much more haunting territories and while nothing of all this might strike you as particularly innovative it’s astounding how this disc breathes new life into such a thoroughly explored field.

We'll miss you...

I am sorry to report that one of the persons I was looking forward the most to meet at Terrastock next week has to stay at home due to personal reasons. My thoughts are with you!

You will be sorely missed, buddy.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Majessic Dreams s/t (Oscillatone)

Malmö is the third city of Sweden when it comes to population, but in terms of music that explores the outer regions most successfully there’s no question who currently is number one. Majessic Dreams is a duo that has been around for a while now but it isn’t until now that I finally get a glimpse of their sparse, slightly bent and fragmentized folk structures. Quietly disorienting drones form a cloudlike background to the view of frozen lakes and slowly meandering rivers bathed in winter sun. Glacial melodies, often based around a simple repeated guitar pattern, walk beside lovely fem vocals like a life partner not willing to let go, hanging on to the good things that once were. It’s a sad but mesmerizing sound that displays nostalgia at its most somber, but there’s also a distant glimpse of hope running through it all that prevents the whole thing from getting stuck in the past. Admittedly I tend to like this the most in the meetings betwixt subtle folk and experimentalism but if you ask me, this is all quite irresistible.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Kyrgyz s/t (Digitalis Industries)

This self-titled Kyrgyz disc offers the first recorded work of a Bay Area dream line-up including Tom Carter (Charalambides), Loren Chasse (The Blithe Sons, Thuja, etc), Christine Boepple (Skygreen Leopards Skyband), and Robert Horton (Broken Mask, Infinite Article, etc).

What we get is a sound that not is easily described and to tell you the truth this disc will probably strike a few of you as quite difficult to enjoy. This comment is not intended to scare you away but those who choose to proceed should be aware that this is an album that it takes a few listens to fully enjoy. As far as myself goes it took at least half a dozen listens and a train journey through endless forested landscapes to understand the corrosive improvisations, fragmentized acoustics and scattered found sounds present here. What from the beginning seemed like a few parallel tracks placed on top of each other finally merged into one unified whole.

At its most accessible this could be a Thuja or Franciscan Hobbies side project but Kyrgyz’s music includes a greater portion of the kind of abstract sound sculptures Loren Chasse creates solo, which makes the final output less organic than most of the Jewelled Antler work. If there is such a thing as quiet cacophony and mesmerizing dissonance it’s all presented here in the form of hesitant strings and quietly tinkling noise vibrating in dimensional tandem.

Alphane Moon Made of Flowers Full of Stars (Oggum)

The sound of the criminally overlooked Welsh duo Alphane Moon is the one of something beautiful thrown into a squadron of effect boxes, a gigantic cosmic rock crashing to the ground right in the middle of some untouched, hidden valley. There’s something mysterious, isolated and dramatic about their music that constantly makes me paint new imaginary pictures. Abandoned settlements at the harsh shoreline morphs into views of a starlit December sky, but what seems to combine all these images is space. This is heavily processed guitars and foggy electronics that take place and can’t be fully enjoyed unless you’re willing to let go and just absorb all the things around you.

Drone, ambient, folk and electronica are genre names that come to mind when describing Made of Flowers Full of Stars, but in terms of feel this is probably as close to krautrock and spacerock. Imagine the mighty Spacious Mind being inspired by the sea as much as by the forest and this might be what it would sound like. I still rank the more dynamic Camera Obscura release The Echoing Grove higher but this is a worthy companion and a must have for any seasoned fan of atmospheric bliss.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Maryrose Crook Ghosts of Our Vegas Lives (3 Beads of Sweat/Tinsel Ears)

There’s no secret that I worship New Zealand’s the Renderers to the same extent as I praise the grounds of Charalambides, Pelt and Roy Montgomery to just mention a few. I have no problem to put the Crook family and their fellow Renderers alongside these modern icons. Given that background information I am sure it doesn’t come as a big surprise that I’ve listed Maryrose Crook’s (with the rest of the members as her backing band) new solo disc as one of the most expected albums of 2006.

It only takes a cpl of seconds of desolate cornet playing, Maryrose’s darkly seducing vocals and quietly haunting lyrics to realize exactly how much I have missed these guys. The first two tracks offer the kind of solemn reflection and lyrical wisdom we’ve come to expect from them when turned down low. “Dream That You’re Driving” is particularly beautiful with distant country flavors hovering over some wide-open space ornamented with gentle drum patterns. When Maryrose’s singing, “living was something I always knew I could fake. You do it enough, it’s a hard habit to break” I just knew that I’ll play this disc just as much as the Renderers unknown classic A Dream of the Sea, and that folks, that’s high praise. “Night Train” is a feather light rocker built around circling Spanish guitar structures and repetitive drumming. Now, this could actually have some hit potential if it weren’t for its excellent climax somewhere in the midst of Brian Crook’s soaring guitar solo. There’s something about how that guy plays the guitar that makes the result sound so much more soul cleansing and important than just another guitar workout. His attack and the chosen effects have a darkness to them that fits perfectly as the soundtrack for a nightly trip through an industrial part of town, but at the same time I just can’t seem to stop thinking about majestic forests when hearing him play. This all makes perfect sense as the Renderers always have been about contrasts, contradictions and genre-bending in general. It’s like the music just hangs in the air, somewhere on the border between this world and the next. Ghosts of Our Vegas Lives is the music of some half-awake state where one part of you is awake and the other is stuck in a dream where there’s no returning. Call it a beautiful end if you will, the sonic comparison to knowing all too well about the unavoidable things coming around the bend, but all you can think about is how beautiful it all looks.

This album might include a wider array of instruments than your regular Renderers album and it probably doesn’t include the same amount of dynamics but in terms of final results it’s just as overwhelming. Anxiety, beauty, love, death, pondering, self-awareness, dreams and nightmares have rarely come in such a perfect shape. I love this, and if you don’t understand what it is that makes this a masterpiece please hold it to yourself because I’ve got more important things to do than to give you your hearing back and to repair that hole in your soul.

Uncle Jim’s Superstars of Greenwich Meantime (Abduction)

“I don’t want your liberty, I’ll take my own liberties and I’ll spread it around like oxygen, or better yet, like a virus”. That’s the first few lines that kicks off the second Alan Bishop (of Sun City Girls Fame) album under the Uncle Jim’s moniker. Superstars of Greenwich Meantime is a piece of “music” that blurs the line between genres (jazz, rock, folk, blues, hip hop, noise etc) and walks the tightrope between spoken word and actual music.

Add high-octane riffing on top of this kind of rant: “When I first visited hell I had a look around and discovered how much it resembled a high-school cafeteria. When I went to heaven I didn’t even park. It was like a handicraft market gone wrong” and I think you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. We get heavy doses of insight and idiosyncratic views on today’s politics and the market economy in general. What makes all this bearable, excellent even, is Bishop’s amazing lyrics, his unmistakable sense of humour and the interesting sonic meetings at display. But as much as I enjoy the actual sounds I predominantly come back to this disc due to its fascinating lyrical content.
I’m not sure I ever could describe the music of Uncle Jim’s accurately and I am even less certain on how to analyse it. But I do know that this is an album to experience rather than to read about. No matter where you might stand politically speaking I am positive this will generate a few thoughts as well as a few laughs. Recommended.