Monday, July 30, 2007

After the goldrush #26

The eminently titled The Stones Know Everything from Fabio Orsi and Gianluca Becuzzi on Digitalis is not only a difficult album to describe, it’s also a bit hard to grasp. The latter is partly due to the sheer length of the recordings presented but also because of the complex ambience we’re served. Although one probably could draw comparisons to folks like Stars of the Lid and the likes I can’t really think of anything sounding quite like this. It’s intense and ambient; droney and microscopical at the same time.

The press kit described Soft Location lead singer as a combination of Cat Power’s Chan Marshall and Sinead O’Connor. I’m tempted to agree and more importantly it’s the one thing that holds together the light folk pop of Diamonds and Gems (MuddyMitten). Some tracks don’t really go anywhere but the title track is worth its feather lightweight in gold.

If someone would have snuck Eluvium’s Copia (Temporary Residence) into my CD player without my knowledge what it is I would never have guessed it’s the work of talented Matthew Cooper. There are virtually no guitars this time out; well actually there are no guitars at all as far as I can hear. What we get instead is a solemn symphony of strings, brass and keys that beautifully investigates hazy memories of love and loss. Words that come to mind while listening to these organic drones: oceans, heartache, the other side and longing.

I’ve praised Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words (AKA Thomas Ekelund) before and although Fall, Fall, Falling (Kalligrammofon) is quite different from its predecessors, it’s most certainly equally great. Melodybased drones build up to harsh walls of sound as well more organic sound affairs. To say that the melodies are at center of things might be to exaggerate but there’s always something for the darkly brooding, anxiety-laden drones to hold on to. File somewhere between Birchville Cat Motel and My Bloody Valentine.

Reading Sounds on Luovaja is an interesting concept compilation inspired by classic literature. Lots of lesser-known Finnish ensembles give way to more familiar underground bands such as Alligator Crystal Moth and Robert Horton. Favorite tracks include Santtu Hirvikorpi’s “Komako” which sounds like snow-clad pine forest turned into sounds and the rainy, primitive bedroom folk of iamheard.

I don’t know much about Southern Man+Pykete (Phaserprone) but it’s perfectly clear that this is not for everyone. Sounds rustle and hiss in a way that makes me think of industrial music as well as minimalism and avant-garde. Difficult music that comes wrapped in simple but great looking packaging.

I’d like to think that the name the Friday Group means a bunch of friends that get together every second Friday or so to drink a bit too much and record. Even though that might not be the case it sure feels like it since the loose improv present on Crystal Eunuch Reversal (Wholly Other/Twilight Flightsound) strikes me both as friendly and even social. I’m not quite sure what social free music is but if your musical friends share your obsession when it comes to abstract, guitar-laced improv featuring folks like Tom Carter, Shawn McMillen, Matt Martinez and Brian C. Smith I know what I’d suggest for Friday night.

More radiant free music can be found on Finnish Vapaa’s self-titled Foxglove disc. It consists of nearly 40 minutes of stumbling improv that stays in the quiet corner almost all the way through. Industrial creakings hide between distant folk shadows and organic free jazz excursions and the outcome is hypnotic to say the least.

Dig psychedelic guitar exorcism bathed in sludge? Then you don’t want to miss the Zodiacs, a band hailing from the same muddy waters as folks like Comets on Fire. We get some serious shards of feedback riding just under squelching guitar lines and impressive drumming. It’s all somewhat melody-based although I realize that I use that term loosely here. Gone (Holy Mountain) is definitely one for fans of high-octane acid/blues rock and seriously disjointed guitar mess.

San Francisco’s Transitional Phase existed for one evening back in 1999, comprised by member of SubArachnoid Space and Gravitar. This self-titled disc for Last Visible Dog displays a space odyssey that tip toes gently over beds of flowing psychedelia and then veer off into sonic dust storms and free-form freak-out mode in general. The aforementioned ‘Space comes to mind as well as the hypnotic spacious spiritual distance of Ash Ra Tempel.

Another member of the Terrascopic family is Saint Joan, a UK combo that creates equally mournful and catchy folk/chamber pop. They have a very sweet accessible aspect, and a darkly seducing side as well; the blend between these tendencies and Ellen Mary McGee’s lulling voice are what push these rain-soaked melodies forward. When McGee is singing “why is far away so far away?” four hours away from my daughters feels like the end of the world. It took me a few listens to fully appreciate The Wrecker’s Lantern (Camera Obscura) but when it hits you, it’s destined to hit you deep both on an emotional and sonic level.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Terminals Last Days of the Sun (Last Visible Dog)

Most bands tend to come and go but then there are long-running combos that no matter what always end up doing the right thing. The key to the success of New Zealand super group the Terminals is probably that Last Days of the Sun only is the band’s fifth album despite the fact that they’ve been around for more than twenty years. It can hardly be called a comeback album since they never really went anywhere in the first place, but it sure feels like one.

Given my long-lasting love for New Zealand rock along a murky trail that begins somewhere around Pin Group and Scorched Earth Policy and leads up to the Renderers and the Terminals it’s somewhat difficult for me to stay objective but this sure is love at first glance. The title-track is particularly pleasing with soaring guitars and swirling organ dancing around Stephen Cogle’s dark tenor like a wild animal around its prey.

“Blue Moon” is a typical Terminals ballad overflowing with anxiety and the sense that it might explode at any given second. “Creeper” is another brooding highlight with absolutely glorious guitar/organ interplay. “Premonition” finds Brian Crook at the vocal podium and does as a consequence sound a bit like the Renderers. I can’t say that I mind.

The Terminals crashes and stumbles through twelve tracks of darkly seducing beauty. Near the end there is a sort of resolution and if you listen closely you can actually hear that the earth begins to tremble.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

3” format

I am pretty sure I already told you how much I dig the 3” format. It’s a format that somehow forces all involved, both the musicians and the people responsible for packaging, to be focused and distill their ideas to their purest form.

Phosphene AKA John Cavanaugh does this very well on Phoenix Trees (Rusted Rail), a five-track recording ranging from frail tone puzzles and ghostly ambiguity to TV show themes and spoken dreamstates. There is some sublimely dreamy transportational stuff going on here and it comes highly recommended for anyone reading this. The same goes for label mates Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon that blends a forested folk atmosphere with a gauzy haze showing surprising traces back to folk like Bark Psychosis and even Spaceman 3. This is ultimately a folk album but there is something about Aaron Hurley’s vocals and the appealing slow motion progression that also sends nods in other directions. Captivating and actually quite essential.

House of Alchemy enters the 3” world with Amber Lions’ Pink Panther Blood, a joint project of Valerio Cosi and the Solo Joint (Toni Ruiz and friends). Ominous atmospheric conditions first transmutate into mesmerized melodic strum and then first walks through fogbanks of subtle hiss and beautiful sax loops on this one-track album.

Pelle Carlberg In A Nutshell (Twentyseven Records)

Former Edson lead singer Pelle Carlberg writes middleclass pop bathed in sweet harmonies and intimacy recalling those Belle & Sebastian albums you’re still returning to.

In A Nutshell is love at first glance and is fantastic at providing a summer soundtrack with enough twists to actually last the entire summer. It’s probably the kind of summer crush that’ll fade away once the leaves start changing color but who cares as long as we get tracks such as the bouncy “I Love You, You Imbecile,” the sunshiny “Pamplona” and the bittersweet melodicism of “Crying All the Way to the Pawnshop.” The icing of the cake is without question “Middleclass Kid,” an up-beat folk pop number that has me humming along more than I probably would like to admit.

In A Nutshell is packed with harmonies, humor and above all makes me feel good. We all need that from time to time, right?

Area C Haunt (Last Visible Dog)

Although I only caught about ten minutes of Area C’s performance in the sales room at the last Terrastock festival, I instantly knew that this was a name to keen an extra eye on.

This Providence duo opens Haunt with a successful slice of mournful harmonium bliss flowing over introspective guitar ripples. It’s a slowly unfolding drone with much variation and significant attention for details. “Star Names” sees pulses of farfisa spreading out over a riverbank of smooth, cloudlike farfisa and the end result is static, monotonous and quietly disturbing. The same goes for the 20-minute closer “Circle Attractor” which on top of its murky drone bottom displays a melodic element that flows in and out of the mix and thus provides a strong meditative quality. This disc ranges from silent to quite intense but is no matter what packed with so many interesting details that you should use your headphones for maximum sonic pleasure.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Discolor Bitrsuites (Apilraun Recordings)

Swedish one-man combo Discolor should not be mixed up with the German Fit & Limo-offshoot with the same name. The only thing these two have in common is sonic qualities and in this case we get ocean-deep melodies bathed in fuzz, crackles and Warp-inspired beats. Imagine a mix of Aphex Twin and Flying Saucer Attack at their most controlled and you’re in the right ballpark.

Every now and then droplets of subtle and surprisingly structured pop elements flow out of the speakers like fall leaves on their way to the ground, but around the corner there’s another buzzing crescendo. It’s at these crossroads that Discolor impress the most, but to tell you the truth, the whole thing is quite lovely in a blurry electronica meets pop/noise/ambient kind of way.