November 2006 Archives
Fennesz / Sakamoto: Sala Santa Cecilia (Touch) - CD
A single live take recorded in Rome sees Sakamoto indulge in abstract orchestration, whilst Fennesz supplies rhythms in the form of glitches and treated guitar. You can work out who's doing what and it all seems to gel nicely. A pleasant 19 minute diversion.
Lasse Marhaug: Spaghetti Western Rainbow (Utech) - CD
This brilliantly titled release originally came out in CD-R format in 2004. Here, re-edited and gorgeously packaged, its a noise tribute to Ennio Morricone. Taking the sonic palette offered to us by the Spaghetti western soundtracks and violently re-interpreting them. Sounds of horses galloping, circling vultures and the clink of metal and leather are wound and re-wound like analogue tape. As essential as anything else this man has done.
Geir Jenssen: Cho Oyu 8201m - Field Recordings from Tibet (Ash International) - CD
According to Jon Wozencroft, founder of Touch, Geir Jenssen (aka Norwegian ambient artist Biosphere) spent all the money that he got from the considerable sales of his 'Substrata' album to fund an expedition to Tibet. Specifically to climb Cho Oyu - the worlds sixth highest peak. Documenting this expedition in the form of a written diary and minidisc field recordings has resulted in what is possibly his best work yet.
And yes, the expected sounds of wind chill are there - a sonic reminder of the extreme nature of their environment. But also the idea of man's insignificance in such vast and isolated surroundings. The constant need to communicate represented by the sound of local people, 2-way radio chatter or tuning into the comforting but otherworldly ether of shortwave radio.
Cyclic rhythms drift in and out of the recordings and whilst they're subtle, they help retain a sense of narrative. Lavishly packaged and almost presented like a guidebook, the inclusion of a map suggests that you could re-create the journey yourself. The ultimate statement in audiotourism.
KTL: KTL (Editions Mego) - CD
Noise gods from the planets of digital (Peter Rehberg) and acoustic (Stephen O'Malley) unite for a supreme journey in power electronics. That all suggests that is one hellish ride of a record. But the opening suspension of 'Estranged' is pure ambience. A night-time steadicam ride through alien Americana, like an immersive Lynch soundtrack in a single 25-minute take.
But after that, the subsequent tracks recall the palette of Sunn O))). Malley stretching sluggish guitar holds to breaking point whilst Rehberg strafes and shears with gigabytes of hard disc corruption. An unholy union.
Plastikman: Closer (Novamute) - CD
Hmmm. On the whole, this is self-indulgent, dull and a pretty tedious listen. No wonder he's ditched the moniker and moved onto DJ'ing. Nowhere near as good as 'Musik' or 'Sheet One'.
Burger / Ink: Las Vegas (Matador) - CD
No, this hasn't been reissued. I just felt like stapling some words to it. For those that don't know, Jorg Burger and Mike Ink (Wolfgang Voigt to his mum) are now part of the mighty Kompakt empire. Originally released in 1996 on the Harvest label (home to Pink Floyd, Can and er, Scorpions). This came to a much wider audience via Matador Records who picked it up in '98.
I'd like to think that this record formed the foundations of the Kompakt sound. Despite their involvement in several projects, this was the only time they recorded something together. And it chronologically makes sense: around the time of the reissue, they were busy starting up their Cologne activities.
There's a concept behind it, but it totally works. A soundtrack to visiting Europeans interpreting Americana via a road trip. But being outsiders, they've managed to make how a night-time road trip through Las Vegas should sound like. From the track titles that reference Roxy Music at every opportunity to the motion blur cover art, this suggests a narrative....of being in motion.
Sonically it's subdued. No raucous riffs, rhythmic rages or quick fixes. Ambient in tone, with repetition and use of looping quite evident. The signature use of treated guitar runs throughout, often forming the main melodic backbone to the track. The echo chamber rhythms are sparse and almost minimal in deployment. But ultimately, this album has mood, atmosphere and an undefinable quality that has meant it hasn't aged since its release.
Chris Clark: Body Riddle (Warp) - CD
Body Riddle may require a different angle of entry to most other electronic albums, but once you're in, it all makes sense. Sonic flourishes that recall Four Tet, Dabrye, and his own earlier work are moulded into an album of instrumental beats primed with with A.D.D. attention spans. The skittish jazz shuffle of 'Herr Bar' is propulsive and noisy, 'Herzog's shift in tempo is brain-curdingly complex - but the standout moment is the lo-slung clip-hop of 'Ted'. Razor-sharp percussion, subtle approach to melody and a loose, almost live feel to the whole thing all add up to what might be one of the finest home-grown electronic albums you'll hear this year. Best thing on Warp in ages, too.
Squarepusher: Hello Everything (Warp) - CD
'Hello Everything' was obviously recorded at a time when the creator was in wallowing in way too much jazz-funk. It's much more "up" and accessible than the dark murmur of 2004's fascinating 'Ultravisitor'. A fact established by the opening pop-bounce of 'Hello Meow' and there's two fierce jungle numbers that will surely please the beat-fiends. Shame it doesn't contain any mutant 2-step, though.
Manor Boys: Chelmsford's Most Wanted (Barry's Bootlegs) - CD
This is terrible; badly recorded, shoddily put together with some real cringeworthy moments. But despite all the above, I can't stop playing it. Casiotone rhythms, stolen hip-hop riffs and two well-heeled white kids who seemed to have forgotten that they were being recorded.
Comedy does have value in modern contemporary music and its in my humble opinion that there's isn't enough of it. Needless to say, if you only buy one Essex-based comedy album this year. Make sure it's this one.
Trentemoller: The Last Resort (Poker Flat) - CD
He dominated 2005 with a series of searing statements in minimal house, but Trentemoller disappoints with his debut artist album, 'The Last Resort'. Making moves away from 4/4 has resulted in an album that's less than satisfying. Just too light where it should be dark, too structured where it should have settled for a groove. It's almost as if progressive house never went away (Sasha has a lot to answer for). Still, if you missed out on the 12"s, they've thoughtfully compiled them onto the second CD here - and they still sound fantastic.
Warrior Queen & The Bug. Click here to view flickr.
Thursday 30th March 2006
Plastic People, Shoreditch, London
Regular visits to Bash have unfortunately meant that (from a reviews point of view) it's difficult to tease them apart. But what I can remember from this one, YT and Digital were alright. But The Bug and Warrior were on fierce form. It's also where I met Emma for the first time, who became my rave accomplice for the summer.
Alex Under. Click here to view flickr.
Friday 31st March 2006
The Departure, 2 Crutched Friars, London
Sud Electronic have been responsible for taking the very now sound of minimal house and techno, moving it away from the likes of Fabric and redeploying on a more street level. Their parties are usually intimate, lively and fun....except this one.
Departure isn't a very good venue. That's the first thing I have to say. London clubs seem to get it right when it comes to charging extortionate drinks prices and having the most attitude-fuelled security staff. But they have a long way to go in getting half-decent sound systems.
Which was a shame, considering the likes of Portable and the excellent Alex Under meted out decent slabs of laptop arranged beats. Neither Sud nor I have been back to the venue since.