Thursday, November 15, 2007

After the goldrush #36

Book of Shadows is an experimental band out of Austin, Texas that among other things features members from classic space/psych rock heroes ST37. …And Then We All Woke Up (Ethedrone Muzac) is something entirely different than those cats though with its bewitching drones, Krautish sound clusters and entrancing, slightly psych-tinged, ambience. A lot of names, such as Tangerine Dream, Gong, Fursaxa, Ash Ra Tempel and Popol Vuh come to mind but these darkly seducing soundscapes manage to transcend their influences and create something that sounds their own. As a whole the album might be a bit too long but on the other hand this dreamlike space whisper constructed from electronics, keyboard, guitar, theremin and vocals, needs its time to display its entire shape.

New Zealand super group The Stumps is back with another stunner, this time with the apt title The Black Wood (Last Visible Dog). The inward-spiraling darkness of the rocking drift-scapes presented on the first couple of tracks transcends many of today's musical boundaries and limitations. It's relieving to listen to a band that's not afraid to investigate new cosmic territories with the interest and curiosity of a child, while also never completely forgetting their noise rock roots. This is definitely at its best when you can witness the roots in a distance, thus flavoring the sonic goods with the anxiety of what an approaching thunderhead on the horizon might hold in store for the ones that are bold enough to further explore.

Belgian Przewalski’s Horses’ self-titled CD-R on Ikuisuus might not be easy to digest but it’s one hell of a ride for those willing to dive deep into this unsettling lava flow of radiant free music. The buzzing improvisations range from the dissonantly beautiful to a sort of repetitive aural hypnosis that brings to mind Sunroof! and that’s never a bad thing, right? I am not quite sure what’s happening musically speaking, apart from that there is a whole lot of distortion, droning flute and a wide range of field recordings like the sound from rain and throbbing helicopter wings holding it all together. I don’t really care what’s what though as long as the claustrophobic noise mantras are this frantically insane and captivating.

The opening few chords of The Phantom Family Halo’s The Legend of Black Six (Cold Sweat) has me thinking about Beta Band and in terms of providing capable song writing and folk tendencies bathed in repetitive psychedelia they do seem to operate in parallel universes. But these Louisville, Kentucky musicians are to be honest as likely to dive deep into some Sabbathian riffage, epic field recordings or Hawkwind space odysseys so I guess that comparison is not really working out after all. It should give you an idea of what these guys are capable of though. I like a lot of what’s going on here but as a whole it might point in a few directions too many. My favorite track is probably "In the Back of My Head" which is a low-key folk pop tune armored with wonderfully whispered vocals and oozing atmospherics. As a whole it’s difficult to rate this disc but there are enough interesting things going on here that’ll guarantee repeated listening sessions. I am just not sure I’ll play it all.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

After the goldrush #35 – the museum is on fire

Fire Museum is building a reputation of being one of the most reliable purveyors of interesting music from unexpected corners of the world. The latest addition is Indian Nathamuni Brothers’ Madras 1974. The ‘Brothers were a large ensemble that played their own unique variant of South Indian classical music on instruments such clarinets, alto sax, baritone horn, and trumpet, along with tavil, talam, and harmonium drone. The result is a fluent and trance-inducing folk/jazz album that is as natural as the cycle of days and seasons and which in a stellar way displays what’s possible in that zone between Indian, Eastern and Western culture. The percussive work is inventive and groovy and the brass instrumentation is played flawlessly all the way through but the one thing that strikes you the most is the sonic interplay. It's like the different players exist as one spirit that guides them through their ethnic jazz structures. No player takes too much space; everyone is at the center of this fascinating sound journey. These nine tracks have been drawn from recordings made by musicologist Robert Garfias in 1974, and it's frightening to realize that these immortal sounds have been kept from me for nearly 30 years.

More on the same label comes from prolific Keijo out of Jyväskylä, Finland who rarely disappoints and Whose Dream We Live In? is no exception. As a matter of fact I think this is one of my Keijo favorites and that’s definitely saying something. What we get is a surprisingly psychedelic disc that blends a myriad of styles: ranging from rumbling drones, jazzy skitter, dark cosmic sound clouds, meandering free folk, psychedelia, acid-fueled rock and abstract free noise to impressive tribalism. All these styles are branches of the Keijo tree and I am happy that now there is an album that manages to display them all without falling to pieces.

It seems like only Italians can get away with choosing a band name like Comet III and naming their debut album Astral Voyager (Fire Museum). Or maybe it’s as simple as that they don’t really care as long as it sounds cool and reflects what they’re up to musically speaking. Comet III is the duo of Delfo Catani (guitar, percussion, field recordings, flute, sitar etc.) and Carlo Matanza (various synthesizers) and their music sounds a lot like its name; like the soundtrack for some particularly meditative space odyssey. The ethereal guitar sound and pulsing, oscillating synth work achieves that perfect balance between alien wonder, peculiarly dissolving space whispers and sheets of hazy elegance which reaches its cosmic zenith with the help from haunting, non-word fem vocals in “Part 1.” Listen to the sounds sink into gravity, try to remember the seamless supernatural dreams it generates, get a glimpse of that wide horizon that comes along with such sonic vision. Let it dissolve time into a languid stupor or simply sit back and relax.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Group Doueh Guitar Music from the Western Sahara (Sublime Frequencies)

The Sublime Frequencies label has been covered in these pages before and although I am sure that’ll happen again I question whether there ever will be a recording I am as excited about as this Saharan sandstorm, Group Doueh’s Guitar Music from the Western Sahara.

The whole thing started when Alan Bishop heard some squealing lo-fi guitar blasts on Moroccan radio and then went on an expedition for the origins of that particular electrified sound. Seeking out numerous cassette dealers, he was still only able to identify the music as Sahwari and to locate the region as the Western Sahara, a disputed territory situated on the Atlantic Coast of North Africa between Morocco and Mauritania. A few months later, Bishop's colleague, Hisham Mayet, equipped with Bishop's recording traveled back to Morocco to continue the quest, ending up in the last settlement of the Western Sahara, Daklha, where through the help of the Sahwari shopkeepers was finally led to the maker of the strange music himself, Baamar Salmou, or as he is known in Sahwari, Doueh.

What we have here are chosen tracks from Group Doueh personal archive, a massive slab of home-brewed, hallucinogenic mantras of scorching guitars effortlessly meshing with trance mysticism to one of the most beautifully acid-fried rock records I've ever heard. It’s all heavily distorted, primitive, intricately groovy, complex and deranged and the fem vocal delivery from Doueh’s wife only adds yet another dimension to the already timeless and meditative effect. This is one of those rare moments when a recording manages to be gut punching and heart warming at the same time.

This LP is apparently just about sold out so I won’t dive deeper into more ramblings explaining why this is one of the most amazing things I’ve heard all year, but I can guarantee that the reward for tracking it down will be fruitful to say the least.

After the goldrush #34

A few great compilations have arrived here recently and the finest one is probably Cris Et Chuchotements, the first release from the French Crier Dans Les Musees imprint. Sonically speaking this could easily be a Digitalis/Ruralfaune/267 Lattajjaa/Foxglove or mymwly compilation since they seem to share a lot of ground with those nice folks. We get tasty bits of droney experimentalism from familiar names such as Peter Wright, Valerio Cosi. Alligator Crystal Moth & Taiga Remains, Black Forest/Black Sea, Kuupuu, Aan (Uton & Kulkija) and White Rainbow, but also contributions from relatively unknown French artists. The involved create all kinds of slowly evolving soundscapes and densely tangled drone webs but not a single track is quite on par with the opening "Music for Flying Carpets" by Valerio Cosi, which sounds exactly like its apt title. This compilation is a mesmerizing and beautiful sound excursion that is overflowing with mood and atmosphere.

Million Ways to Spend Your Time (Quasi Pop) is a Ukrainian compilation focusing on experimental sounds out of Norway, Germany, France, the US, Poland and well, Ukraine. I guess that’s the world of globalization, right? This disc also includes tasty drifting clouds of heavenly organic textures but it’s to be honest as likely to dive deep into harsh noise (Lasse Marhaug and Andreas Brandal), blurry underwater ceremonies (Black To Comm), post rock grooves (Peel Off The Bass), crackling/bubbling electronica (Continental Fruit and 8Rolek), laptop minimalism (Alexey Petrov), carnival experimentalism (Jorgen Knudsen), avant-pop/techno (O. Lamm), bluesy guitar instrumentalism (Origami Epileptika) and drone-oriented electro-acoustic improvisation (Andrey Kiritchenko). It took a few listens to understand this multi-faceted disc but the more I listen to it the more I tend to like it.

Binary Oppositions (Static Caravan) is a compilation that accompanies an exhibition that addresses the contrasting pairs of analogue and digital. Both the visual and sonic artists hail out of Birmingham, England and when listening to this 21 tracks long album I can’t help but to be impressed by the vibrant scene of this English city. Beat-based electronica moves into avantgarde and then across a wide plane of folktronica and bittersweet, polyrhythmic electronic pop. But as if that wasn’t enough there is also bouncier pop, feather-light melancholia, minimalism, ominous drones and music seemingly made to accompany some particularly haunting film script. It’s a varied mix that works surprisingly well but mostly so when the concept behind the comp clearly is as at display. Familiar names such as Broadcast and Pram blend with mostly new, but still mighty impressive contributors. This is another one that is difficult to grasp but still a mighty fine one.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Matt Zaun RIP

Matt played drums in Salamander, Skye Klad, Blitzen, Di Dollari and several other bands and was truly one of a kind. Matt's design skills and music can be sampled here, though just a tiny sliver of his massive body of work is on display.

This is a real shock to me. I just don't know what else to say than that we're thinking of Matt's family and his fellow band members. What a great loss!