Saturday, September 30, 2006

After the goldrush #19

Taiga Remains is the solo moniker of Cincinnati Ohio’s Alex Cobb who runs the Students Of Decay label. Given the high quality of that label it doesn’t come as a surprise that the buzzing drone zones presented on Moon Colored Dogs (musicyourmindwillloveyou) are spellbinding to say the least. This extended reissue (originally released as a 3” CD-R on Student of Decay) is constructed from a myriad of buzzing guitar sounds and oscillating fragments from melodium and chord organ that are glued together to an entity that moves from corner to corner of the room or just resonates in the air as if held there by invisible wires. This results in incredibly dense clusters of overtones and vibrating drones that recalls Birchville Cat Motel as well as a few of the better known UK underground dronesters. Imagine rainy fall days of Glasgow turned into drones and you’re getting close to what this is all about.

David MacKinnon is best known for his work with Brisbane genre-benders the Lost Domain but he has over the years also released a few solo albums under the name of John Henry Calvinist. King Solomon Hill (Foxglove) is his latest outing and maybe the least accessible yet, but also probably the one I like the most. What happens here is that we get a twisted, mostly instrumental version of back porch folk/blues from a guy who knows more about the genre than the rest of us do together. But don’t be fooled to believe that we just get an updated version of what once was; no this is so much more than that. The sum of the dusted past is clearly here but it’s placed in someone’s hands that treat history with such a respect that it’s mostly in terms of mood and atmosphere that the two fit together. This is raw and gorgeous, feedback-laced avant blues that feels like a future outsider classic.

Tsukimono (AKA Johan Gustavsson) belongs to a loosely knit bunch of Malmö-based musicians that together create some of the most fascinating Swedish music today. Née (Kalligrammofon) is according to Gustavsson himself “less an album of songs than it is an album of photos” as it was recorded, deleted, re-recorded and edited during a period spanning almost three years. It was definitely worth waiting for as it nicely glues together entrancing sound sculptures from cut-up, yet subtle electronics, field recordings (the inclusion of rain in ”Fuck Your Perfect Noise” is exceptional) and guitar melodies draped in melancholia. It’s an abstract kind of nature-clad pop minimalism that despite its processed electronic twitches and cracks strikes me as very organic. File somewhere alongside Hood, Fennesz and Four Tet.

Nick Grey’s Thieves Among Horns (hand/eye) comes from the same side of things as Tsukimono as it comes wrapped in a thick blanket of melancholia, sadness and doubt. Grey even writes in the liner notes that the disc should “be played when in doubt” and just be aware that this actually has the effect of changing a happy day into one of those endless days of pondering. It’s an album that hits deep and has a tone that is utterly hard to escape from. Even though it’s stripped to the bare bones and the presented mood is haunting to say the least the folky sound is still somewhat fleshed out, with broad orchestrations that from time to time truly make you feel that the end is near.

Précis (Kranky) is the first album from young Michigan-based multi-instrumentalist Thomas Meluch under his musical pseudonym Benoît Pioulard. He delivers surprisingly melodic folk pop that most of the time floats in delicate and fragile waters but which occasionally also veers off into more experimental terrain. Acoustic guitars, soft-spoken but catchy vocals, chiming bells, bass, dulcimer, tape samples, electronics, field recordings and much more blends into a detailed, soft-spoken statement that recalls summers’ hazy days. This is a grower that will get a lot of stereo time this fall when I realize how much I actually miss the summer.

Let’s move on to something completely different, double bassist Thomas Helton’s Experimentations in Minimalism, an album that contains compositions performed by various small woodwind and brass ensembles, mainly using the saxophone. What makes this (please note that I use this term loosely here) free jazz record stand out as something special is that it despite its experimental and minimal leanings remains deeply rooted in traditional jazz. It’s kind of relieving to hear free jazz that truly is free and that not is too stuck in old patterns and ideas. Helton’s influences range from traditionalists such as Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane and Paul Chambers to more modern/experimental giants such as Peter Kowald, Evan Parker and William Parker. That should give you an idea of what to expect.

Black Happy Day In the Garden of Ghostflowers (Silber)

Black Happy Day is an unexpected collaboration between Tara Vanflower (of Lycia) and Timothy Renner (Stone Breath, Mourning Cloak, Spectral Light & Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree and the Revelator). Acoustic guitars pluck beautiful chords alongside banjos, dulcimer, harmonium, glitchgear musicbox, vocal effects and feedback. What makes this album hit so much deeper than your regular folk album is the aura of mystique that runs through all of the album's 51 minutes. One important element that helps create this bewitching beauty is Vanflowers’ feather-light voice, which works like a sharp contrast to Renner’s solemn baritone. The simple but astoundingly chilling "Of the Wind And Loneliness" displays this with the sound of a banjo successfully riding on the ridge between the two voices. If you’re already a fan of Renner’s experimental take on old-time folk music you’ll definitely need this and if you’re not, well than it is time to give him another go.

Geoff Mullen The Air in Pieces (Last Visible Dog)

Someone recently dropped the concept of ”terrible beauty” and the more I think about it the more I realize that this might be the term I’ve been looking for in order to describe a certain kind of music that’s equally draped in grace and anger. Providence musician Geoff Mullen’s aptly titled The Air in Pieces fits the description eminently as it glides through imaginary images of frozen beauty right into scenes of creaking warehouses at night. Sweeping fuzz drones, lonesome amp hum, muffled buzzing and meandering, slightly psychedelic guitar explorations of the most cavernous kind build up to a somewhat restrained wall of sound that arouse a kind of quivering physical reaction in me. It is painfully beautiful and repetitive in the same way as Charalambides’ more minimal work but to place Mullen alongside Fushitsusha would probably be just as accurate. The minimally structured chords and simple melodies construct vast and spatial guitar landscapes that occasionally are fleshed out with chimes. The Air in Pieces hovers slowly towards the horizon and the closer we get the more isolated and alienated you will tend to feel. Magical.

Heavy Winged Echoes of Silence (Deep Water)

By the time this disc came out New York combo Heavy Winged had already called it quits. That’s a bloody shame as their noise-clad drone rock crescendos nicely reject the dogma of various churches of experimental noise and improv, moving freely across a quite wide musical landscape. Sure, familiar names such as Bardo Pond and other pummeling psych masters occasionally come to mind but as one ploughs through Echoes of Silence the music proves to be way too complex to reduce to any singular influence. Wide-eyed, throbbing drones give way to dense holes packed with shards of raw electricity, but although clearly coming from a noise rock background the whole thing is more often than not presented in a brilliantly slow-curling fashion.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Volcano the Bear interview

I recently had the opportunity to team up with Volcano the Bear just before one of their Stockholm shows. Feel free to go to the Terrascope site to check out the results from our little chat.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Free Players s/t (Last Visible Dog)

I’ve always liked Finland’s Keijo (Virtanen) but I have to be honest never been a fan to the same degree as some of my most valued music friends. The Free Players includes Keijo alongside members of Vapaa, Kheta Hotem and Kundalini Snakes and what they do together is something completely different from the glacial darkness Keijo is capable of on his own. What we get here is unexpectedly psychedelic jams interspersed with wailing free jazz sections and galactic organ sounds. It’s not at all what I expected and manages to sound equally influenced by the Dead, Harvester, Can and even Pink Floyd. Nicely baked.

Seht The Green Morning (Digitalis)

I can’t remember where I read this but apparently the Russian language uses the same word for sleep and dream, somehow suggesting it’s pretty pointless to be asleep if not combined with some surrealistic dreams. Listening to New Zealand’s Seht (AKA Stephen Clover) makes me think of all this as the addition and subtraction of the different sound layers seems to be there just to pull us into some half-awake, half-asleep dream world.

Barely there, extremely minimal melodies glide through drifting fogbanks of slow-bleeding drones. I can’t really decide if the results are ominous or if they’re actually subtle, graceful and quite beautiful. Maybe it’s really as simple as what we get on The Green Morning is ominous and overwhelming at loud volumes, genuinely soothing and even quite spiritual when toned down. No matter if I choose turn it up loud or use this disc as distant background music while putting my daughter to bed it strikes me as some of the most gorgeous soundscapes I’ve heard this year. Comes highly recommended to fans of Steve Reich, William Basinski, Popul Vuh and Labradford.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Playlist #23

Jazzfinger Autumn Engines (Rebis)
Eastern Fox Squirrels s/t (Last Visible Dog)
V/A Sound Surrounds Us Volume 5 (musicyourmindwillloveyou)
The Lost Domain An Unnatural Act (Foxglove)
Akhet Tehka (musicyourmindwillloveyou)
Heavy Winged Echoes of Silence (Deep Water)
Spires that in the Sunset Rise This Is Fire (Secret Eye)
V/A Wailing Bones Volume Eight (Foxglove)
Christina Carter Electrice (Kranky)
Birchville Cat Motel Curved Surface Destroyer (Last Visible Dog)


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

V/A Sound Surrounds Us V (musicyourmindwillloveyou)

One can always discuss the value of compilations but in the case of this micro label based in Kyogle, Australia it goes without saying that they can be crucial in terms of unleashing more goods from well-respected but unknown outsider units as well as presenting new bands.

Sound Surrounds Us V is easily one of the finest compilations I’ve heard this year and it actually manages to focus on bands that are new to me. The icing of the cake through is Broken Face faves Ray Off out of New Zealand, which delivers one of their finest slices of fucked-up folk yet. ”Middlemarch Hop” is homebrewed folk covered by a thick blanket of tasty sound collisions in miniature and droning lo-tech minimalism. It sounds a bit like a more electronically bent and experimental Hush Arbors, and if that’s not praise I am not sure what is. Add to all this stumbling feedback and whirrs of drone buzz from Australian Little Head Big Body, modal guitar-drone bliss flavored with all sorts of aquatic noisescapes from No Guru and soothing walls of beat-infused drones hypnotism from Biffplex and you got yourself a stellar comp.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Eastern Fox Squirrels s/t (Last Visible Dog)

It’s not easy to keep up with all the different monikers and combos Brad Rose find himself involved with, but there’s one thing that unites pretty much all of them: the amazingly high quality of the music. This time he’s teamed up with his wife Eden and Robert Horton, another of these prolific underground heroes, and this disk is no exception from that rule.

It kicks off with some beautifully bowed strings but what truly makes it capable of stopping time is the rendition of Charalambides classic “Hours”. Eastern Fox Squirrels are actually here joined by the talents of Tom (electric guitar) and Christina Carter (vocals), Dan Plonsey (saxophone) and Jason Bill (bass) and to describe the collaboration as anything less than stunning and fruitful would be a grave understatement.

The rest consists of a richly organic tapestry that is deeply connected with impressions and inspirations of nature. The gorgeous vapor trails of all sorts of things droney are ornamented with field recordings, organic noise, glockenspiel, bells, scraped strings and a cast of exotic instruments. Beautifully hazy, highly organic, acoustic drones hovers in the air just like some old mysterious tale, which comes highly recommended to fans of the Jewelled Antler collective.