Friday, January 25, 2008


I might as well start with admitting that I am pretty drunk as we speak, but no matter what that might do to my judgement I have to say it's been one hell of a start of 2008 in terms of exciting music. I have already heard four albums that for sure will be candidates for the top ten when it's time to wrap things up in about 11 months. Here we go:

Of The Sun & Earth Together (Ultra Hard Gel)
Alastair Galbraith Orb (Next Best Way)
Ulaan Khol 1 (Soft Abuse)
Common Eider, King Eider How To Build A Cabin (Yik Yak)

You've been adviced. Now, back to that bottle of Arbeg Airigh Nam Beist...


Monday, January 21, 2008

Elektronavn interview

I just finished an interview with danish Elektronavn. If you want to check it out proceed directly to the Deep Water website.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Of The Sun & Earth Together (Ultra Hard Gel)

Founding Jewelled Antler member (he’s been playing with Thuja, Blithe Sons, Franciscan Hobbies, Child Readers, Coelacanth, Id Battery and Ov to just mention a few) and public school teacher Loren Chasse is back with another solo album under his Of moniker, one of the most consistently irresistible sonic outfits out there today. Where a lot of improvisational music only briefly goes beyond being sonically interesting, Of takes the richly organic qualities to the quieter extreme. The sounds here are so closely knit with nature and environment, that if you just close your eyes you’re likely to see hints of waves rippling through the sea or the stillness of majestic trees. Chasse’s glacially unfolding, yet detailed and somewhat grainy sonic landscapes, offer a sacred space for solitude, wonder and beauty which is difficult to pin down in mere words. Not really sure what’s what here but there’s lots of field recordings, rusty guitar ambience, autoharp, stones, bowls, branches, quietly tinkling bells and zither to make up the graceful acoustic drones, swirls and tones that hover around distant clusters of manipulated field recordings.

The Sun & Earth Together is a somber and hypnotic listening, even when segments of tracks break out from this mold of quiet, organic growth, Chasse quickly returns to the life-giving drone connected with impressions and inspirations of nature. It’s very early and I don’t really like it when it happens, but I might already have heard the best recording of 2008. Utterly beautiful and essential in a way that my words never can capture.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Testbild! Une Teinte Intense (Friendly Noise)

Concept albums are sensitive matters that easily can get out of hand and even miss its initial idea and purpose. When it comes to Testbild!, Malmö’s finest pop ensemble, that’s a minimal risk as they have dressed up pretty much every release in a theme of sorts so they’ve refined this form over the years and is slowly approaching perfection. This time out we find the band honoring Swiss-born (she lived in North Africa) writer and revolutionary Isabelle Eberhardt, who in many ways was many decades before her time in terms of challenging and questioning the current political views and systems.

The whole thing starts with a spoken word piece based on Eberhardt's writings, and although French isn’t my strongest side it’s delivered in such a profound way that it perfectly sets the tone for the celebrations that is to come. “Labyrinthine” is a quirky little pop melody bathed in lovely ‘60s sounding vocal harmonies and it also includes fragments of that perpetual cycle of North African instrumentation and mysticism that pops up here and there through the entire disc. The mostly instrumental “Maghreb” is a glorious desert whisper garnished with field recordings and embellished with a suggestive kind of melancholia. “Evening Star” is a windswept village by the Moroccan coast at sunset. As with a lot of the other tracks there is the occasional Moroccan drumming that adds a transporting element to the overall breezy feel, and that’s certainly welcome to these ears.

Generally speaking this is an album that certainly has its reference points in the Canterbury scene, the most colorful side of the ‘60s soft pop era and maybe I am just seeing the figure of a certain Robert Wyatt here and there because I know how important he’s been to the band. But most of all this is the sound of being trapped inside a dream that’s all about subtle disorientation, about being at the wrong place at the wrong time and not accepting the designated route. Nearly perfect.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

After the goldrush #42 - entering the deep water

One can probably argue that being a regular contributor to Deep Water Publications makes it a bit difficult to review releases from their sonic brother, Deep Water Sonic Productions. But then on the other hand, this is not exactly the Rolling Stone we’re talking about so who can honestly say that they give a shit? And when something is as great as Anvil Salute’s This Is the Voice of Doom Calling I am not the one that’s going to shut up. This latest offering from Norman, Oklahoma’s finest is a nearly perfect slab of naturally evolving folk that might be too focused for some of the free folk fans out there and too fucked-up for the majority of the folk rock gang. I am not sure that’s why this band’s far-reaching meditative ambitions haven’t reached out all the way yet or not, but I do know that this inexcusable fact has to change. Free jazz inspirations work like ghost-like shadows that come in and out of the folky mix and there’s also a stunning angularity to some of these tracks that has me thinking about Velvet Underground. But the overall feel is definitely the one of cyclical music that is mesmerizing and hypnotic without being as primitive as many of the contemporaries. Beauty and inspiration rain down like manna in these instrumental folk sessions, recordings both wonderfully focused and distilled, yet free.

More on Deep Water comes from Flying Sutra, a new Philadelphia-based drums-guitar duo that glues together segments of frenetic jazz percussion with shards of feedback. Levitate and Dissolve offers plenty of the heavy goods but there’s enough variation and free jazz inspirations to keep things interesting. Some of the longer tracks veer off into some sort of heavy Soft Machine-inspired terrain and that’s certainly welcome to these ears. It might not be quite as essential as the releases from label mates in the Clear Spots but it’s still quite rewarding.

Whilst shopping from Deep Water you might also want to check out the split CD-R from Glasgow’s Pefkin (Gayle Brogan of the Boa Melody Bar mail-order and of the late Electroscope ensemble) and the Circle and the Point (a duo of Adam Richards of House of Alchemy fame and Grant Capes of (VxPxC)). Pefkin’s extended contribution is a hazy, mostly acoustic improvisation that manages to provide a warbling sonic journey from the heart to the brain. The Circle and the Point plays simple, repetitive guitar figures that fuzz and drone, with murky melodies of organ, bells and wind instruments providing a safe harbor to call home. Nice.

Last but not least comes Nessmuk, a solo release from Deep Water head honcho Kevin Moist. I think I might have overdosed on Roy Montgomery lately because a lot of music has recently made me think of this guitar maestro and Flies Free (Abandon Ship Records) does so too. Not necessarily because the end result is similar but Moist and Montgomery seems to aim for a similar kind of instrumental glory. What we have on this 3” CD-R is three murky guitar instrumentals that sound like the soundtrack for a road trip without a happy ending. The dark and beautifully motorik "Station Signals" drones, swirls and vibrates for no more than just over four minutes but those minutes are pure bliss. It reaches for the heavens with a fuzzy delay-steeped guitar drone interwoven with meandering guitar lines. It's almost like two different tracks that run separately side-by-side. Every now and then their roads criss-cross and it’s in these conjunctions the tension between darkness and skeletal beauty reaches impressive heights. The second track is a bit harsher while the closer starts and end things in the introspective corner but in the mid section there’s an impressive climax that might scare some of you so tread with caution. Can’t wait to hear more.


Friday, January 11, 2008

After the goldrush #41

My first introduction to Danish one-man band Elektronavn was through the amazing Songs of Impermanence CD-R on the Finnish Ikuisuus imprint. On this 7” (BSBTA) we find him teaming up with Exquisite Russian Brides and Elektronavn’s side as just as intriguing as the aforementioned CD-R. Gently hovering, folk-induced soundscapes and rusty ambience meld together to a glacial flood of darkly seducing free music, which will appeal to everyone reading this on a regular basis. On the flip we find another Dane knowing how to produce music with maximum meditative effect. Guitar, loops, bells and xylophone circle in the sky like an eagle searching for its next prey.

2008 promises to be a prolific year for Elektronavn but while awaiting releases on labels such as Qbico, Digitalis, Rural Faune, Students of Decay and Secret Eye you should definitely check out the cloth-clad Black Zurnai cassette on Not Not Fun Records. Compared to the other stuff I’ve heard from Elektronavn this is definitely the noisiest and most collage-like, but in the middle of the intoxicating amalgam of noise and drone there are also a chaplet of folky tones present that reveal a sort of beauty and isolation that actually is much more seducing than it is alienating. I am a big fan of what this guy is capable of and be sure to check out the Deep Water site sometime soon for an interview with Mr. Elektronavn, Magnus Olsen Majmon.

UK four-piece Safetyword’s new 7” on Static Caravan is a different cup of tea altogether. The alt-pop of the a-side doesn’t do that much for me but the flip, “Dandelion Clock” is quite a delight with its old-timey vocals riding on a riverbed of understated instrumentation and delicately plucked guitar.

Let’s finish this column with another slab of vinyl, the Static LP on (K-RAA-K) from Wellington, NZ ensemble Bad Statistics. Members from The Idle Suite, Cloudboy, Minit and more make up this combo that probably is coming from a rock background but what they do is to take those influences and drown them in improvised, psychedelic drone waters. On top of this there’s a pulsing krautrock vibe running through it all, but what truly sets it apart from your average New Zealand underground album is the vocal ranting from Thebis Mutante that truly defies my description. This is dense, groovy sound clusters constructed from synth and organ fuzz, drum circle tribalism, heavily phased guitars, vocal rants, motorik bass lines and clarinet that cover so much sonic terrain it’s difficult to grasp, but once you’ve been sucked in there’s no way out.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

After the goldrush #40

Honey Owens (who have played with Jackie-O Motherfucker) AKA Valet paints aural pictures of the Pacific Northwest landscape on her Naked Acid album for Kranky. Valet presents a mixed guitar bag ranging from ambient washes and low end rumbles to dark cavernous clouds of distortion and on top of that there are loads of understated effects and gorgeously drifty vocals. The latter is used more as an extra instrument than a traditional vocal element and the results are dreamy and quite rewarding.

Hunted Creatures is the new sonic moniker of Ryan Emmett who last year released a disc as Droopy Septum on Mike Tamburo’s New American Folk Hero. Black Ash Lotus (Dynamo! Sound Collective) is a darkly ambient, yet quite forceful and unsettling, even disturbing drone affair. These five tracks mostly offer steady low minimal noise bliss resulting in a somewhat alien, bitter and cold soundscape, although it within its boundaries actually covers a wide expanse of sonic terrain. More on the same label comes from Nature Nasa who has more of a free improv/noise approach along the lines of folks like AMM, This Heat and to some extent bear resemblance with the outer regions of the NZ scene. You may have to move your head outwards and apprehend it to get maximum listening pleasure but it’ll definitely be worth the trouble.

The link to Andy Futreal goes through the New American Folk Hero label and what he does on Ophelia Wanders (Harha-askel) is to examine the emotional range and possibilities of the acoustic guitar. Gentle guitar structures flow over you and color your current view in different colors depending on what track you’re listening to. We get 15 guitar instrumentals that stroll along gently and in most cases remain in melodic terrain. Sure, Fahey is an inspiration but this has honestly more to do with folks like Bert Jansch than the Takoma scene. That doesn’t prevent it from being an impressive recording draped in talent, but more importantly also in emotion.

German Talvekoidik’s Silent Reflections (Brume Records) represents a musical genre I don’t listen to a great deal. It’s not because I don’t like what I am hearing, more due to the overwhelming amount of music that’s available these days and sometimes you simply have too choose. I am happy I’ve given this slice of rhythmic electronica a chance though as it’s overflowed with harsh beats and Baltic melancholia. The hypnotic effect when turning this one up loud is actually surprisingly great. There are times when things get a bit too symphonic and even neo-classical for my taste but the overall cinematic feel stays on the positive side, and how can you really go wrong with a sound architect describing the idea of his music “as to illustrate the point where the stones hit the water while falling into it, where the wind blows on the fields and bends the stems..."?


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hamilton Yarns Search for the Underwater Town (Hark Recordings)

Back in the paper days of the Broken Face (I just found a handful copies of BF #18 so if anyone need a copy of that particular issue don’t hesitate to send me a note) we wrote a few things about the impressive underground scene in Brighton, UK. I am not sure what it is in their water pipes but it must be something quite special given the amount of amazing bands hailing from this relatively small town. Hamilton Yarns is a new experience to me but judging by the quality of these recordings I am guessing they’ve been around for quite a while. Search for the Underwater Town is quite the double platter of laid-back horn-laced pop segments, late-night jazz excursions and outsider folk. It’s true that this is a fairly low-key affair, with tempos rarely switching above second gear, acoustic guitar strum, damaged horn drones, minimal piano structures, cornet, harmonium, violin and Wurlitzer providing most of the musical backdrop, but it’s never boring.

Don’t let the first timid notes fool you that this is a quartet unsure of where they’re aiming; nothing could be further from the truth. These organically evolving improvisations provide a beautiful and innocent ride through fragile and quietly disturbing landscapes that make imperfection sound utterly compelling. The ear for detail and the way these Brits make every sound gracefully float around the next one is impressive, and the construction of the haunting and gentle yet abstract soundscapes that perfectly contrasts the traditional with something much more modern really defies my description. Recommended.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Linus Pauling Quartet All Things Are Light (Camera Obscura)

Houston, TX based five to seven piece “quartet” LP4 is back with their sixth album, this time a limited LP on the Australian Camera Obscura imprint. These guys have always been clever enough to play it real stupid, walking that fine line between dope-induced idiocy and genius and their sense of humor is definitely intact on All Things Are Light. The opening “Alien Abduction” offers a tasty slice of majestic Sabbathian riffdom and as more guitars are added to the mix it reaches some sort of groove rock momentum. It’s bombastic to say the least and it’s not surprising to hear that one of the band’s mottos is “anything worth doing is worth overdoing”.

The following “Southern Pine” combines two contrary sides of the LP4 sound universe as it starts as a sensitive, ‘60s sounding space/psych pop ditty before moving into a wall of Blue Cheer type riffs. “40 oz.” is a psychedelic country ode to 40 oz. malt liquor and I don’t really think I need to say how great/stupid it is. “Enchirito” is a stomping murky riff-feast where we find guitars wrestling with saxophone to stunning effect. Then comes the lengthy, hard-driving stomper “Waiting for the Axe to Fall” that is sure to keep the ass moving all the way through its seven minutes.

As always the different styles are flavored with tasty bits of feedback and guitar exorcism and all of you who question whether that's your cup of tea or not should try to catch the Linus Pauling Quartet live (they’re playing Terrastock later this year). There's not many like them when it comes to sheer class and energy.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Uton & Valerio Cosi Käärmeenkääntöpiiri (Fire Museum)

Long-distance duo collaborations seem to be the flavor of the day in the Italian underground. This time we find Italy’s Valerio Cosi teaming up with Jani Hirvonen in musical circles best know as Uton. Käärmeenkääntöpiiri is a gloriously soft-spoken soundbath installation based around all things droning, but this is so much more than just another timeless drone so don’t let that scare you away. Exploratory and glacial, but ever-changing, soundscapes constructed from guitars, saxophone, electronics, organs, effects, strings, field recordings, percussion and all sorts of noises move like dark cosmic clouds across a dense galactic plane. It’s strange that these sounds somehow make me think both of some cosmic whirlpool and the unconditional love of a hidden valley. I guess what I am trying to say is that this disc manages to stand with both feet on the leaf covered forest floors but also aim for the stars. Blend all this with elements of psychedelia and distant traces of free jazz and you get yourself a release that touches deeper than most recordings ever will.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

After the goldrush #39

There are times when you feel that you really should be somewhere else. After just a few notes of Anup Kishore Pradhan’s Hidden Nature Is Secret God (the horse and the mule is draped in lace) I realize that a summer-clad Maryland front porch probably should replace the rain-soaked Scandinavian winter outside our kitchen window. Pradhan plays acoustic guitar music that is wondrous and transcendent, music that meanders and flows in a way that makes it seem constructed purely to illustrate moods and nuances. There are obvious bonds to the Takoma tradition but this relatively short (and focused) album is more structured and less experimental than many of his contemporaries, thus providing a great start for newcomers to the genre.

Autistic Daughters is the musical vehicle of Dean Roberts, Martin Brandlmayr and Werner Dafeldecker and if my memory serves me Uneasy Flowers is their second one for Kranky. It’s a subdued sound affair that blurs the line between the topographic and abstract side of the sound spectrum and the song-based. Skeletal guitar and bass figures move in circles around computerized loops and slightly jazzy percussion while Roberts’ dreamy, barely-sung vocals provides the tension and anxiety of living in an earthquake zone. It took me a while to fully appreciate this one but the more I listen the more I tend to like it.

Maxime Primault is the head of the fledging French Crier dans les musées imprint, but he’s also a sound sculptor under the Enfer Boreal moniker. L´espace Des Éternités Possibles (Ikuisuus) is his debut and judging from the glacially moving improvisations presented here Primault is definitely a name to remember. Guitar, electronics, turntables, bass, radio, keyboards and voice are used to create a dense drone fog, which from a distance might seem static and minimalistic but on closer examination will reveal plenty of details and sonic development. It’s a somewhat dark sonic endeavor but at the same time it manages to be graceful, transcendent and quite successful.