July 2006 Archives
A re-configuration of the flat has led to an unearthing of a stack of promo's and test pressings that were either badly labeled or not tagged at all. Recent shifts away from writing about 'dance' music and regular trips to Sound323 (they only do CD's, see) have meant that the decks have not been in effect.
But this week has seen the innards of 39 Cedar Court reverberate to the sounds of Einoma. In particular, their last album 'Milli Tonverka' for the (now defunct) Vertical Form label. Total aping of latter-day Autechre, but with a more filmic approach. Brain-curdingly complex rhythms showered with sweeping classicist melodies and tender use of voice. Any news on what this lot are up to would be appreciated.
Just about the entire Congo Natty back-catalogue has been on replay too. Although after an hour, ragga-jungle can start get on your tits. Funnily enough, it's the re-issues of Rebel MC's early works that have made me jump around like a sad raver. Specifically his top 10 hit 'Street Tuff' with Double Trouble. Actually I can pinpoint the verse....
"Hard not soft, underground boss
Turn up the bass and the treble of course
Feel with the music and you wonder
Is he a Yankee? No, I'm a Londoner"
Next time: some Turkish psych-rock that I picked up from Istanbul, intense Africa from the fucking amazing Mahmoud Fadl and a 4/4 techno record that I need to identify (no information, not even on the run-out groove). Here's some more of that dubstep nonsense....
Gravious - Wormsign / Monolith (Hotflush) - 12"
'Wormsign' sounds like an unimaginative breaks tune that's had that over-familiar dubstep-staple warbling b-line tacked onto it at the last minute. Skip to the B-side where echoes of dub and ghosts of amen hover over a real sludge of a rhythm.
Scuba - Twista / Plate (Hotflush) - 12"
Scuba - Harpoon / Dream (Hotflush) - 12"
Scuba (aka Hotflush boss man Paul Rose) adds digi-guitar rock to dubstep's dread on 'Twista'. Fun whilst its on, but might seem slightly novelty after a few repeats. It'll definitely be way too cheesy for the moody crowd who frequent the DMZ nights. He does come up trumps on 'Plate' which is possibly the heaviest tune they've released though. 'Harpoon' nicely does the whole pleasant melodies on top / sneering sub underneath routine to a tee.
luke.envoy - Gamma (Hotflush) - 12"
Dubstep's whole eastern / arabic obsession is starting to grate a little now. But luke.envoy manages to restrain himself in the use of rhythmic / melodic motifs. Both are snarling bursts of tense electronics; basslines scoured with digital cleanser. 'Gamma' is decent, but the B-side 'Honour Kill' is the prime directive.
I try really hard to avoid writing about stuff other than music in these pages (even try to filter out the nonsense that is my personal life). But one event that I couldn't help hyping up is a retrospective of the films of Michael Mann at the National Film Theatre here in London.
It's very, very easy to get over-analytical about someone like Michael Mann. Recurring themes of loyalty, honour and morality. Strong, disturbed, complex male characters and weak female ones. The fascination with urban landscapes. These are all subjects for any film lover to get fully immersed in.
But ultimately, I see this NFT retrospective as a celebration of someone who's been responsible for creating some of the most beautiful visuals ever seen in modern American Cinema. Along with people like Terrence Malick, these films simply fuse commercial know how and cinematic art with effortless aplomb. This neatly coincides with the release of 'Miami Vice', where I can report that the pastel and neon nights of the '80s TV original are replaced by digital darkness and arc-light definition.
Following his films chronologically, you can see the path of progression he's taken to get to here. The initial tinkering with digital cinematograhy in Ali through to the full blown use of the medium on 'Collateral' and 'Miami Vice'. The close-up framing and searing tension of 'The Insider' even though it doesn't contain a single moment of physical violence. The fact that despite having both De Niro and Pacino in the same movie, the real star of 'Heat' was LA itself (the same can be said for Collateral). Not to forget that he was responsible for two of the best movies from the '80s: 'Thief' and 'Manhunter' (still hands down the best Thomas Harris adaptation).
Include the epic 'Last Of The Mohicans' and the little seen 'The Keep' and 'The Jericho Mile' and you have an unmissable month for anyone remotely interested in modern cinema. With his next film 'Arms And The Man', all about Victor Bout, the world's biggest arms trafficker, it looks like he'll continue to apply his unique vision to the tough stories.
quintetAvant: En Concert a la Salle des Fetes (editionsMego) - CD
The story is of five major players in the French improv / electronic / electro-acoustic scene coming together at the Musique Action Festival to make a serious racket through a mix of digital interrupts, analogue synths and tape. This CD documents their efforts.
Four untitled tracks. Two are long, the other two are short. No catchy melodies, followable beats or love and warmth here. But it is quite a nice summation of the Mego brand. I can hear echoes of Hecker's viciousness, Pita's classicist leanings and Tujiko Noriko sense of mischief.
Throw in sped up vocals, animal noises, distorted instrumentation, bursts of skull cracking feedback and its a maelstrom of epic proportions. Made even more astonishing by the improvisational nature of the performance.
Digital Analogue noise constructed from bezier curves.
Sandoz: In Dub Chapter 2 - Live in the Earth (Soul Jazz) - CD
Borders on digi-dub at times, but on the whole this is another solid slice of earthy dubtronics from Richard H.Kirk. Not quite as good as the first installment ('Beam' and 'Chocolate Machine' still sound terrific) but as London bakes in this heatwave, it'll do nicely.
Virus Syndicate: The Work Related Illness (Planet Mu) - CD
Initially spat out with ill-advised artwork to a disinterested audience, this debut from Manchester's Virus Syndicate gets a much-needed re-release with new artwork and new tracks. Musically tight, MRK1's efficient production and choice use of samples give the MC's a vibrant, filmic backdrop to perform on.
They achieve near perfect pop on moments like 'Throwing in the towel' and 'Ready To Learn'. The highlight of course is the confrontational street-swagger of 'Slow Down'. MRK1's film soundtrack obsession confirmed with the weaving of Danny Elfman's Batman theme on 'Taxman'.
I've not been able to sit through a grime long-player from start to finish....here is a welcome exception.
Alexander Robotnick: The disco-tech of.... (Yellow) - CD
When I ran absorb.org I had dedicated section devoted to electro / italo-disco. Dunno what's happened now though. But after being slightly fucked off with minimal (not ready to jettison it just yet), I've found sexual thrills aplenty in the original machine funk
For those needing a primer, this mix CD is a perfect place to start. Listen, writhe and then go off and explore the artists that you like. Me? 'Lectric Workers' 'Robot is Sysematic', Casco's 'Cybernetic Love', FPU's two contributions and Memory Boy's 'There is no electricity' all give me erections.
Frank Bretschneider & Peter Duimelinks: Fflux (Korm Plastics) - CD
It's Frank! Frank means funky! Despite working within the rigid templates laid down by the roster of the Raster-Noton crew (he's a founding member). I've always found Frank's work to possess a dancefloor sensibility. On this collaboration with Rotterdam's Peter Duimelinks they take minimalist loops through textural deconstruction.
Opener 'Knox' is so groovy, it'll propel you: sub merged bass and short-wave frequencies do battle against rhythmic pointillism. 'Prax' has more than a hint of Pole about it, with its fluttery patterns and weightlessness. My only complaint? It all runs far too short at just over 30 minutes. A follow up record would be a solution.
Various: The World is Gone (XL / Various) - CD
Anyone who's been within the walls of a decent record store during 2006 can't have failed to miss their startling series of 7's. Adorned with intricate artwork of captured moments of lust and desire. Add to that, a secretive approach to ego (no interview's, no photo's), resulted in a music that intrigued everyone.
It's obvious that the creators must be blessed with some sort of musical attention deficit disorder. Moving from echo-chamber dub to future folk to binary r'n b with apparent ease. The opening sneer of 'Thunnk' is jarring and immediate, but nothing prepares you for the weightless beauty of 'Circle of sorrow' that follows straight after.
The production is sprightly; spatial awareness via a mix of markedly different vocal styles, tender instrumentation and propulsive electronic melodies. It's future pop made from broad brush strokes with dubstep's influence providing them with their unique sound.
At a time when the iPod generation have de-valued the long player, along comes one that reconfigures the very definition.
Someday all pop music will sound like this.
Various Artists: Elektronische - Interkontinental 5 (Traum) - CD
Traum's ever worthy compilation series continues to dazzle with the latest installment. I'm here to filter, so just head straight for the contributions from Adam Kroll (bleep house max) and Ortin Cam (teutonic, chord progression). Also the packaging is so fucking spot on, it hurts.
I really don't have the time or energy to try to even cover the flood of minimal house / techno immigrants that seem to be clogging the record shelves up and down the country (well, I mean London. Ok, Soho. Actually just the shelves of Phonica and Soul Jazz).
Whilst dubstep releases seem to have come to a grinding halt (the two vertical racks at Black Market haven't moved for months), miminal seems to be the new euphemism for 'churning them out'. I don't think the music's losing it, but in the face of being overwhelmed, I always end up running the other way.
I'll quickly whizz through them a label at a time. First up Cologne's Traum Schallplatten....
Extrawelt - Doch Doch - 12"
The title track is efficient, to-the-point and therefore adheres to minimal branding guidelines. But it just isn't as good as their 'Soopertrack' business on Border Community. The B-side dispenses with the populist effects and goes for an orthographic approach to rhythm and riffs.
Dominik Eulberg - Der Buchdrucker - 12"
Yeah, more of the same propulsive reverse kick effect that he seems to use on every other record he does. But unlike some of his other works, there's no immediate melodic pay-off. The title track does take its sweet time to reach its euphoric string breakdown though.
Minilogue - The Leopard - 12"
The title track prowls through city-emitted basslines, trying to avoid the glare of street lights. If Michael Mann ever needed to lace a soundtrack with techno, he'd have to look no further. Tense, taut and loaded with sex.
Lars Wickinger - Blutrausch - 12"
Twangy strings and dense disco occupy this 12". Bit too gloopy for my liking. As if everything has been doused in syrup. But the B-side 'Gleitflug' does seem to shed off its sweet skin in the 2nd half.
Adam Kroll - Godzilla - 12"
Thematically lacing everything with samples from Japanese monster movies gives these driving, motorik sequences a distinct flavour. Still, not as good as 'Gallop' off Traum 61 or 'Yngoor' off Traum 50.
Dominik Eulberg & Gabriel Ananda - Harzer Roller - 12"
Two heavyweights come together for a surprisingly restrained affair. Initially non-plussed then realised (according to last.fm) that I'd listened to the title track far too many times. Subtle, under-the-skin techno for today's youth.
Dub Kult - Twelve - 12"
Yet to be impressed by anything from Dub Kult. This release hasn't changed anything.
I remember asking the late John Peel about whether he had any friends that shared his own musical tastes. He replied back very dryly "Few and far between, I'm afraid. Not many." I'd kinda hoped he'd elaborate on who these mythical people were and why weren't they on the radio (who knows, maybe they are). But he echoed how I feel about who I could say shared my musical tastes: few and far between.
Most shall remain nameless, but one person who has turned up recently is Emma. She made the mistake of e-mailing me with faint praise on my listings service. Arrived fresh from the U.S. and eager to consume all that London has to offer. Her twin tenets of techno and noise are currently aligned with mine. I made friends.
Of course we have differences; our definition of noise differs. She doesn't jive with jungle, yet is happily down with dubstep.
As a result of her presence though, she's triggered a resurgence in my back catalogue of all things American. From Tommy Boy's street-corner hip-hop (key album Paris' 'The Devil made me do it') to the first wave of Detroit Techno (R-Tyme's 'R-Theme' will be played at my funeral).
It's actually opened some sort of floodgate of all things Detroit.
One night (due to being stuck abroad on work duties) I managed to read from cover to cover the brilliant 'The Manual: How to have a number one the easy way' by Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty. For those of you who remember the nineties, they were better known as the KLF. Pop-terrorists par excellence (check Wikipedia for a definitive article). Amongst the many gems that littered the book, here's one that's apt:
"The Techno sound of Detroit, the most totally linear programmed music ever, lacking any human musicianship in its execution, reeks of sweat, sex and desire. The creators of that music just press a few buttons and out comes a million years of pain and lust."
Next time I'll mention Andrew, he's Mancunian.
Whitehouse: Asecticists 2006 (Susan Lawly) - CD
My introduction to Whitehouse was purely accidental (I seriously doubt anyone would have the nerve to force it on you). It was somewhere in the north, either Birmingham or Manchester. Tagging along with friends who were into 'arts'. I was clueless, being of Pakistani origin, I had very little knowledge about European Modernism and I had no desire to gain any.
Ended up at some arts event. Displaced rooms playing music that I'd label 'mostly harmless'. We found ourselves in a corridor with what sounded like a detuned ghettoblaster going through meltdown. It was Whitehouse. Friends scowled and headed to the main room. I'd like to think it was for some really rubbish mutation of free jazz, but I'd probably be lying.
Out of all the music that was on, that sought to engage and include. It took two guys screaming obscenities against a tidal wave of high end feedback before I could interact. Needless to say I was transfixed. But going back to their recorded output, nothing really matched what I'd heard that night. Not until 2003's 'Bird Seed' and now this. The tracks with Bennett brood, the tracks with Best confront.
Tujiko Noriko: Shojo Toshi + (Editions Mego) - CD
Compiling the original 2001 album with additional tracks results in a near perfect introduction to the world of Tujiko Noriko. The cover has her battling the forces of mediocrity and commerce, comic book style. This cut'n paste method fits perfectly with her music: disparate textures held together by her voice.
Like organic, saccharine sweets with serrated, pixellated edges. Best demonstrated by the awesome 'Bebe'. Funnily enough the best description came from the genre my iTunes decided to place this in: Pop.
Venetian Snares: Cavalcade of Glee and Dadaist Happy Hardcore Pom Poms (Planet Mu) - CD
To most people with normal music tastes, they'd wrap this up and say "well, it's totally ridiculous music, it might as well have a ridiculous title." But for the rest of us who seem to get off on what Venetian Snares does....
It was always gonna be difficult to top his last album. 'Rossz Csillag' fused strings and amens and wrapped it up in an edible, narrative concept. Needless to say it was pretty hype and resulted in his most 'accessible' work yet. Well on his latest (and tenth!) album for Planet Mu, he goes back to basics.
Loaded with light-speed melodies and inwardly collapsing rhythms, it might not have the orchestral grandeur of 'Hajnal' nor the sheer brutality of 'Befriend a Child Killer'. But it's a thoroughly enjoyable audio buggering nonetheless.