February 2009 Archives
Rafael Toral: Sound Mind, Sound Body (Moikai) - CD Originally released 1994, reissued 2000
I've had this on pretty much every day since the start of the year and I'll forever struggle to apply any meaningful words to it. Amazing to think that this originally came out way back in '94 on Portugal's AnAnAnA label. It's since been re-issued by Jim O'Rourke on his marvelous (but defunct) Moikai imprint and it's easy to see why: this is an extremely beautiful record.
To Rococo Rot: Hotel Morgen (Domino) - CD Released 2004
Always have had a soft spot for TRR's unique brand of polymath-pop. Ever since their first release way back in '95, they're one of those bands that seem to ooze unquestionable confidence. Music whose paths, to the trained air, could be easily plotted. Before an unexpected melodic, rhythmic, textural or spacial shift will suddenly see it spiral off into unknown trajectories.
'Hotel Morgen' was their first release for Domino and it sounded like the trio from Berlin had obtained even sharper lenses. Some genuinely beautiful moments arise from the deft meshing of the unusual and the familiar. The trance-like pulsing rhythm that underpins the guitar picking on the gorgeous (but criminally short) 'Tal' is one such example. Elsewhere, the lure of the dancefloor is never far away and the sublime New Order-ish 'Miss You' sounds like the sort of haunted disco that would sound perfect in an abandoned Hacienda.
Third Eye Foundation: I poo poo on your Juju (Domino) - CD Released 2001
Despite the other-worldly and mystical connotations perpetuated by the name, artwork and track titles. Matt Elliot's long-running project has always lived within the realms of earth-bound realism. His palette exudes an overwhelming sense of decay and history, of time and location, of narrative and story. And this, his last release for Domino, showcases his obvious talents as an accomplished remixer. From the woozy piano lament of his Yann Tiersen (he did the 'Amelie' soundtrack) remix to the heart-slowing drip-hop of a Tarwater track. These interpretations feel like they actually existed long before the originals. And like most of his work, it'll either engage in full or sound terribly portentous.
The Slackers: The Slackers and friends (Special Potato) - CD Released 2004
Oddball ska / reggae album from NYC's The Slackers. Collaborations from the likes of Cornell Campbell and The Congo's are the most successful. Their lyrical dexterity glosses over the pedestrian production. But elsewhere there are some real misfires from the likes of Ari Up (ex The Slits) and the two terrible contributions by Chris Murray. I've never been a fan of ska and everything on this album just reinforces all my suspicions.
Skugge & Stavöstrand: Gräns (Onitor) - 12" Released March 2005
Hugely enjoyable slab of precision-cut technodisco. Onitor have since ceased activity, which is a shame because they were one of the more interesting labels to ride the click-house / minimal wave. Opener 'Friday Mission' wastes no time in laying down the blueprint for the rest of 12" to follow; deep kicks and crystalline melodies. And the ride-out of 'Mind Blaster' blips and burps in an agreeable manner. Also be sure to listen to their brilliant 'Humla' long player; filled to the brim with unusual variations on the house theme.
Kaman Leung: Idioms (Lacerated) - 12" Released March 2003
I hope I didn't buy this and got it sent as a promo. I couldn't find a press release for it and nothing in my e-mails mention Mr Leung or his (now defunct) Lacerated label. It must have been one of those 'sounded great in the Soho record store for about five second' moments. Actually, that's a bit harsh, there are some quite interesting bits on this 4-track 12" (might have been during 'Simplify'). But on whole it left me hating instrumental hip-hop just that little bit more. To read something that's the total opposite of my cutting analysis, go check Boomkat's gushing review.
Cue robotic cries of "No disassemble!", Ally Sheedy's terrifying haircut, that weird actor who was pretending to be Indian and of course the universally terrible Steve Guttenberg....
Anyway, the real reason for this post is not about the eighties film 'Short Circuit', but about the festival of the same name. Which happens over a weekend (14th - 17th) in May at the Camden Roundhouse. I've already blogged about the Touch night on the Saturday (16th) which has Biosphere, Philip Jeck and myself amongst others. But Thursday has Can's Holger Czukay playing live, apparently kicking things off with a homage to Stockhausen before moving onto unheard Can material as well as his solo stuff.
Friday night is taken over by Barcelona's Sonar Festival, no idea of the line up though. The festival draws to a close on Sunday night with the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop. We're most excited by the prospect of a live performance from the electronic pioneers. Get. Your. Tickets. Now.
For more info go to http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/series/short-circuit
It's all sitting in a folder marked 'Unlistened Music' on my external drive. As you can see I'm working backwards, alphabetically speaking....
Utabi: Manchurian Candy (AD AAD AT) - CD released March 2004
Annoyed that I missed this when it came out on release. The way it was presented ensured it stayed in the pile, in the corner, of the room, for years. Well as it turns out, I haven't heard anything this joyous from the electronica stable in ages. Utabi's brilliantly titled 'Manchurian Candy' (....geddit?) continues Ad add at's fine tradition of nurturing 8-bit electronic pop music from far-flung corners of the world. Saccharine fuelled melodies and stop-start inflected rhythms reminiscent of Aphex at his most playful moulded over 15 different permutations. The last track ('Cassia Angustifolia') expands the scope by adding trombone, melodeon and guitar to the mix. Maximum fun.
Upland: Upland (Jester) - CD released March 2004
It's thankfully short, but this just sounds too much like Autechre to be critiqued on its own merit. There are moments where it does move into areas that the Mancunian duo haven't. But the obvious similarities are too great to ignore.
Uniform: Not a Word (Ad Noiseam) - CD released May 2003
The most interesting thing about this album is the history that lead member Wajid Yaseen has had. Hailing from the north of England (Manchester) with Asian origin's. His interest in electro and thrash led him to the industrial scene since the mid-nineties. He flirted as bass player for agit-pop ethno types Fun-Da-Mental before launching his 2nd Gen project. This resulted in several interesting records for NovaMute. Now we have Uniform.
From what I can recall of his 2nd Gen stuff, it seems to follow in a similar vein. Moody / brittle / harsh, nothing is presented naturally; diffusion, distortion and decay are viral. Difficult to say if its an album I'll revisit, the overwhelming sense of despair suggested by the musical palette nearly did me in before I'd finished it on the first listen. The track titles also give some indication as to the state of mind of the creator; 'Dying at a yes or no', 'Tick bastard tock' and 'Torn Hands' are just some of the gems. Although my personal favourite is 'You idiot, that's a girl's bike'.
I'd probably suggest you skip this and go for the Planet Mu released 'Protocol', which has vocal contributions from Lydia Lunch, Suicide's Alan Vega and Dalek.
Transparent Sounds: Emotional Amputation (Electrix) - CD released 2002
My interest in modern/retro electro really started to tail off when artists started to think they could master the art of the dance album. The most effective electro acts as a quick fix; melodies that pierce with beats that are rhythmically so rigid, you'd be physically stiff after 10 minutes. So trying to push that into the realm of the long player doesn't really work. Not totally without merit though, couple of the numbers could have made up a half-decent EP.
Tortoise: It's all around you (Thrill Jockey) - CD released 2004
On paper I'm meant to like Tortoise and I liked their first few releases. That one with the long, pretentious title and then some nifty remixes from Autechre and their nice covers and lofty intellectualism. Plus they looked arty and were American and arty. But after that it didn't work out between us, stuff released was patchy and I was bored by them and post-rock (which I renamed roast pork). Then I saw them live at Camden's Koko and it was all good again. But then the records started to sound a bit rubbish and that one on Warp wasn't good (except for the track that had the harmonica on it).
This is one is OK though.