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Staff reviews this week

Music From The Mountain Provinces
Various

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

9/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

This is a brief one. I'm too stupid and poorly-travelled to be an authority on Philippine mountain music played by tiny culturally isolated tribes but this is the record for me this week. You want this LP If you care about people who, like David Stiffler, in their tireless search for such rare indigenous music, had their journals and recording equipment confiscated and ultimately stolen by the MNLF rebels in the mountains. "We escaped with a single cassette, the clothes on our back, and our lives".

That cassette is now pressed onto high grade vinyl by the ceaselessly passionate crate-diggers at Numero Group for our lazy privileged delight and, like only the very finest traditional folk music, is built around hypnotic repeated phrases, utilising natural reverberation and simple, earthy harmonies that almost emotionally slay me for the day. I can feel the breeze in the trees and smell the trampled soil on the ground - this is one of those really magical records. For this week only, stick yer soundtracks up your arse and buy something proper earth-bound.

  • Available on:
    LP £15.89

Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1: Nommos / Visiting
Craig Leon

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

9/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

There's been quite a bit of controversy around this definitive re-issue of Floridian producer Craig Leon's two ambient-primitive "synthesizer folk" masterpieces. Known primarily as a mastermind behind some seminal NY punk/new-wave albums in the 70s, his penchant for creating hypnotic, simple and effective new-age electro and warm cosmic grooves has not gone unnoticed. Both these albums are early 80s electronic benchmarks that will appeal to anybody that enjoys the warm analogue wonderment of, say, Chris and Cosey, early Human League and New Order by way of Brian Eno and Jah Wobble.

The back story behind his inspiration is widely reported, his close friendship with folk visionary John Fahey well documented, as the counter-culture classic 'Nommos' came out on his Takoma label. Our Phil actually got me hooked on the bloody thing at Christmas, his glowing review is to be viewed here.  Apparently, Craig was not happy with the Superior Viaduct re-issue of 'Nommos'. The label licensed it from the current owners of the Takoma back catalogue but because of Mr. Leon's disapproval (he wanted them to use his painstaking re-recording from 2009 - presented here) a stink ensued. Seems they refused and used perfectly adequate archive tapes rather than the original master (which is totally lost). The SV press sounds amazing to me though so don't go seeing it as a bootleg like some hysterical fools. It's just not "officially sanctioned" by the artist, his powers denied due to bollocksey trans-Atlantic licencing issues.

Basically, my waffle can be interpreted as a plea for you all to buy both 'Nommos' and this new lavish twin set that includes the equally mesmerising, tranquil and playful 'Visiting', an album he describes as a continuation of the themes so lovingly explored on the preceding year's début. Personal and involving music for dreamers and cosmic travellers. These RVNG anthologies are really becoming quite something.

 

  • Available on:
    Double LP £22.89

Furia
The Fates

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

9/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

One of the most obscure, rare and coveted records from the Manchester post-punk scene is actually a sweetly shambling DIY "pagan folk" album from Blue Orchids & Fall keyboardist Una Baines and a load of her (mostly female) cohorts. Numerous other B-Orchids/Mancs luminaries are involved.  I read about this briefly years ago but thought it may be a bit of a long stretch to obtain a copy. Those Finders Keepers types have done it again, Ma.

Checking this out in the cold light of day rather than the "witching hour" that I'm normally listening to things I have a keen interest in, I'm struck by how intimate and charming this album actually is. There's a certain stoned campfire feel to proceedings with tom-toms and flute backdropping the sleepy acoustic dissonance and tentative stargazing vocal of opener 'Ceaseless Effort'. 'Bridget of Ireland' follows suit with its gorgeous Wicker Man lull and red-eyed rustic warmth. The track that floored me hook, line and sinker is 'Sheila/She Beats in my Heart' which flows like The Velvets and the Blue Orchids doing Fairport Convention by way of K records. It's a beautifully slow blissed-out lollop of a thing that brings to mind the criminally underrated Scots collective Lucky Luke.

My time/word-count allowance is a bit limited to break this baby down track-by-track. But I don't care. 'Furia' is a dusty, organic heartfelt transmission from the vaults from the early 80s that is quite unclassifiable in its scope. It offers up so much comfort and intimate lure that by the time we reach the gorgeous strolling whimsy of an acoustic pop gem 'No Romance' I'm nearly in tears. How have I lived my life for four decades without having heard this album? These Fates are naive, adorable and waywardly unpredictable. 'Holy Hymn' is a church service in Anton Le Vey's circus sideshow tent. 'What Am I' is a truly fascinating piece - superb dark ambient scare-scapery overlaid with female Lancastrian spoken-word surrealism. Endearing and terrifying simultaneously. I've not heard anything like it in my life! 'Ritual' and 'Strength' conclude this mysterious record and are two similar versions of the same tune; a beautifully rousing dose of female a cappella folk.

Get this, seriously.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.89, LP £15.39

Hammer '86
The SM Corporation

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

9/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

Every week there's one remarkable twelve inch unearthed from somebody's archives, be it some obscure italo treat or an old techno/house blinder rescued from collector scum obscurity. This amazing piece of wax went straight in my bag I tell you. To say this is the first time it's actually seen the light of day is bordering on the criminal.

The original 'Hammer '86' is a fabulous electro-tech-disco stomper with a deep, strident 80's female soul vocal and some real exotic and enticing effects that lend it a darkly sensual edge. Absolutely loving the beats on this. You could not keep still if you heard it in a club. Unless you're dead. Some gorgeous searching synths and it's shivers up the spine a-go-go. I feel gutted when it ends and put it on again twice. Apparently the band recorded the track using metal workshop implements, on a cheap Yamaha keyboard with an attached microphone.

The genius big yin of Glasgow club music, JD Twitch transforms the track into a more EBM/industrial-flavoured stomper, laying bare the SM Corps original influences such as Severed Heads and Skinny Puppy. Hear him disembodying the vocal slightly, reducing the exoskeleton of the song to a ghostly echo. It's like he's fed it a big line of ketamine and watched it fly.

Finally, the Great Lakes Mystery version of 'Hammer '86' is a very radical re-working with a quite different vocal in the mix, a graceful and darkly atmospheric piece of work. It's a stunning slice of ethereal electro pop that culminates in elegiac chamber strings and near-choral male vocals. Truly a classy re-imaging. Grand, celestial and ambitious, tinged with an epic sadness.

 

  • Available on:
    12" £5.79

Lese Majesty
Shabazz Palaces

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

9/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

If there was something that I never expected Sub-Pop to start trading in, that thing was hip-hop. Now with them brandishing the second SB album, shaking it in my gormless face and the impressive Clipping. CD jammed in my back pocket, I'm now skipping down the road like a lunatic singing a stupid song about the dawning of a new age of subversive weirdo rap. There's nothing even a tad indie or grunge here kids. This is true progress!

I think these lads is from Seattle; there's tons of articles out there about SB nowadays as predecessor 'Black Up' made real waves. I know one chap was in respected outré jazzy rappers Digable Planets and the other guy's old man was a "master of the mbira", a thumb piano. That doesn't prepare you for the sultry, sharp and sonically remarkable vibes here. I'm reminded of Flying Lotus in spots, cLOUDDEAD in others.....although the difficult and somewhat alienating abstractions of many such circa millennial underground producers have been subsumed by a need to retain the funk, the groove without sacrificing pure intelligence and visionary, daring production concepts.

As a non-intellectual consumer of music, I'm merely left gob-smacked at the sheer kaleidoscopic level of invention here. The flow is immaculate, brooding and celestial. Divided into seven suites, Shabazz Palaces not-difficult second album is a cryptic maze of moody, cosmic futurism that won't piss your house guests off.

Time to bin those Anti-Pop Consortium records now. You can keep 'Ghost Lawns' though. 'Lese Majesty' is every bit as enjoyable and interesting as their lauded début.

 

  • Available on:
    CD £10.09, Double LP £16.49

Monster Skies
Various

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

8/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

This is a labour-of-love collaboration between the ever-canny Finders Keepers and Australian off-beat stable Dual Planet.

Essentially a cosmic weirdo's dream compilation with thoroughly excellent Andy Votel sleeve art, this is very much how I'd expect a DJ set by ex-members of defunct analogue nut-cases Add N To (X) to sound. This is music for people who like Devo but wish they were as prog-fucked as Soft Machine. Folk who love 'Zeit' by Tangerine Dream but crave a bit of Robert Fripp at the same time. There's a track by Steve Maxwell Von Braund which gives this crazy album its title. Proper acid-soaked funky motorik astral-rock madness. I don't actually want to know anything more about him, he sounds like he may either be dead or really boring now as he put all his best ideas into this one song (surely?). It's easily the most wildly entertaining thing I've heard this week is 'Monster Planet'. Ennio Morricone meets Funkadelic by way of Hawkwind and Sun Ra?

Fans of the stone-cold classic Forbidden Planet soundtrack will adore bits of this. All those lovers of cult European soundtracks, devotees of Broadcast's more outre moments. X-Ray Pop are featured here too; truly one of the most strange, pioneering yet underrated French bands ever. You must buy all their available records now. Or the Octo-robot will kill your family. Yeah. What else? Stuff from the likes of Andrzej Korzynski who offers up something akin to early 80's industrial electro-funk. Loads of superbly segued oddities for the connoisseur of the strange in your family. I think you'll find that's YOU if you are reading this. Yeah, gotcha!

Aussie import only, not sure how long this'll stick around but I'm impressed as an impressed man by the crate digging skills exhibited here.

 

  • Available on:
    LP £19.99

Other Voices 01
Brooks and O'Hagan

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

8/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

This single is a gem. I enjoyed many instalments in the last series of collectible GB sevens but on none of them did the two idiosyncratic aural worlds of any of the collaborators gel in such a perfectly balanced fashion than on this two-faced dinky treat. This really is Advisory Circle meets High Llamas in both spirit and sound.

On the A side, we get a sparse and rather divine sounding blend of blissed-out crystalline dream-folk with sparingly delivered lullaby vocals and whimsical, pastoral analogue electronic bloopery. I love that word, it's well retro. If not actually real. The words "sunshine pop" are bandied around with nary a thought these days but the term could not be more appropriate when applied to 'Calibair', a truly care-free and beautifully rendered piece of timeless music.

'Mulcair' is an equally reflective but quite different mood piece with a playful kitsch lounge-folk aspect. The harmonica plays off the sleepy easy-going electric piano and slow-strolling nature of this largely instrumental track. Could be the faintly-off beat theme to a unrealised witching-hour TV series about eccentric country folk.

Totally worth it if you are a fan of either musician. Being the first in a new set on this most collectible of imprints, I'd not dilly-dally here.

 

  • Available on:
    7" £6.29

Television Man
Naomi Punk

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

8/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

Is that name cool? I can't decide. Remember the late 90s when all the band names were a bit shit? Radiohead started it all with their triple-wank moniker. Well, whatever, like, the music here is quite fine. Minor quibble over.

Not sure quite who they sound like but it's stripped-back guitar and drums garage punk with a deliciously weird progressive twist. I can hear spots of The Wipers and Jay Reatard in there. Then early Shudder To Think in a cardboard box having a cat-fight with Oxes and Lil' Biz's beloved Aussies, Total Control. They've got that psychotic angular edge I really like and aren't afraid of unusual stark post-hardcore-flecked arrangements, lo-fi noodle-ludes or Branca-esque minimalism. Structurally sparse but vivid, spiky and genuinely interesting avant-rock.

To say this awkward, scratchy garage/math/nerd-wave racket is kicked out by just two dudes, they're definitely going in the right direction musically (as opposed to the wrong direction - see: Japandroids, Black Keys, Drenge) Actually, after that particular slew of dreadful names I reckon Naomi Punk is actually quite alright.

 

  • Available on:
    CD £10.09, LP £14.99

Through the Hardship of Seasons
Russell Hoke

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

8/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

We've had loads of records in by this guy, he basically sends us boxes of his vinyl, old-skool fashion, asking us sweetly if we can try and sell them. That is then what we do as he's quite a loveable lad. A free-folking bluegrass-inspired songsmith, this latest hand-assembled offering is another obscure beauty.

One of the most endearing things I've ever heard on a piece of vinyl in all my days is the conclusion of the accomplished and delightful 'Driftwood'; a perky, rousing, rustic singalong where he suddenly chuckles quietly "my finger got caught!" - thus ending the song. As a nice contrast to this one semi-pro recording, the fluttering straight-to-tape uber-lo-fi charm of 'Nature's Ball' offers up the other side of Hoke's oeuvre. Proper crumpled campfire folk topped with his high, natural playfful voice; this is a charming tune nestling someplace between Woody Guthrie and Syd Barrett.

An R.L. Burnside cover over on the other side; 'Long Haired Doney' is equally engaging. Folk and bluegrass works best recorded like this as it echoes the grainy porch-lit classics of yesteryear. This is where the likes of Charlie Parr went a bit wrong, his early work had such an organic flow and intimate personality that was sheared away the minute modern studios came into the equation. To make music like this sound authentic all you need is a microphone and a tape recorder.

He saves the best for last. 'Bewiltered' is like a lost melancholy nugget from the late 60s. True Greenwich Village genius. I'm not a huge Bobby D fan but this track weighs in like Jim Sullivan meets Leonard Cohen's world-weary cynicism and indeed possesses the warm, personable flow of prime Dylan. Do yourself a favour and support a proper grassroots folk musician and his odd array of little private press treats. He's eccentric, genuine and talented. He also hand-scribes all his own centre labels in sharpie. I'd get cramp after about three.

 

  • Available on:
    12" £9.89

родина (Rodina)
Sam Shalabi + Stefan Christoff

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

8/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

Very intriguing and gorgeously packaged record here from the multi-talented Sam Shalabi and Stefan Christoff who I am unfamiliar with (until today).

Basically a collaborative play-off or improvised jam between guitarist Shalabi on the Oud (a pear-shaped acoustic guitar/mandolin-like instrument) and Christoff on incredibly well-matched and sympathetic ivory-tinkling duties.

The instruments seem to go extremely well together timbrally and as exotic and freeform as the record could be, there appears to be a very accessible structure and celestial flow to the music which brings to mind the more cerebral raga-ish elements of John Fahey, James Blackshaw and Richard Bishop with the tentative and often lovely contemporary piano of Hauschka or earlier Nils Frahm.

'Vardar River Song' sees Shalabi's mesmerising oud playing dominate whereas the shorter 'To Sophia' is a solo piano piece of highly emotive and ridiculously pretty proportions. 'One Oud' on S2 is just what it says. Lovely piece. I feel like I'm in a near-deserted market square in an Arabic country on a blazing hot sunny day listening to some nimble fingered little genius all unflustered by the heat and spiritually nourished whilst I roll around sweating, eyes rolling, tongue lolling, uttering crazed gibberish.

It segues effortlessly into the stunning 'Along Treska', another epic piece about a Macedonian river. This magical day-dream of a tune concludes my most soothing and warmly involving record this week. True exotic classicism from beginning to end. I'm rather temped to own one of these, the silk-screened sleeve is worth the price alone!

 

  • Available on:
    LP £14.89

$ixxx Harmonie$ Version
Killing Sound

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

8/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

Enigmatic Bristol bods Killing Sound have pinched the name of Kevin Martin's early vehicle for his Bug releases and like that noisy bearded sound system disturber they specialise in a dark, brooding bass music aesthetic. This single-sider is an atmospheric and rhythmic slice of portentous dubbed-out modern post-grime with dark ambient stylings.

You can hear Bristol's more austere musical history seeping from these doom-laden stalker-tech grooves. It's a fresh take on what was kicking off ten years ago and has all the hallmarks of a blackened party starter.

 

  • Available on:
    12" £7.89

No Time
The Soft Walls

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

8/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

The first album by Dan Reeves' Soft Walls was an instant office fave; I don't recall hearing it due to the paucity of copies actually available. Both formats sold out in two seconds flat. I've been given the task of throwing a few words about his newie on the increasingly popular Trouble in Mind, a label concerned with only the best in lo-fi psych garage rock.

Ten tracks here of rather divine spectral gloom pop rendered in a dusky DIY fashion by this Cold Pumas laddie and I can now totally hear the appeal of Soft Walls myself. This solo material is built around ragged, chiming and repetitious guitar shapes, obscured melancholy vocal wisps and clattering muffled drum machine with additional sympathetic layering of unfussy bass or woozy keyboards.

His vibe has a quietly mournful yet dream-like feel and there is plenty of scope for a variety of expression with the limited trusted tools he has at his disposal. 'No Time' does have a particularly adorable UK charm all of its own; a rare breed of home-spun introverted psychedelia that is both intimate and aloof.

I do detect a very authentic love of dingy krautrock on numerous tracks; many of these rather addictive tunes have a scratchy motorik charm which increases their worth tenfold for me. This is bedroom ghost-rock, played with an undeniable passion, the rough edges and murky finish only serving to highlight how thrilling and catchy each track is.

Hookworms legend MJ lends his mixing/production chops to 'No Time' which usually means you're getting real quality for your money. I can't pick a favourite track or two out here as I really like them all and a couple make me feel rather emotional. This way he has with minor chord changes and sad, yearning harmonies is very personable and quite affecting.

  • Available on:
    CD £11.19, LP £15.89

Lucier: Memory Space
Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

7/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

This album isn't that much of an easy listen, I won't try and convince you otherwise. Along with improv legends such as Berlin's Zeitkratzer, here Gareth Davis and Rutger Zuydervelt are keen to celebrate Sonic Arts Union legend Alvin Lucier's pioneering sonic achievements.

Basically this is a minimal abstract jazz/sound-art record with heavy field recording and musique concrète elements. Lots of strange trails of murky, impenetrable foreign dialogue on one side underpinning the sci-fi tonal fluctuations, free bass clarinet skronk and organic sound samples. Everything from disembodied clattering and scraping  to wordless vocal utterances that will intrigue fans of both The Conet Project and possibly the tape splice collages of Mr. W. Burroughs.

The other face relies more on a little static interference and mainly the sound of some autistic children developing exciting and somewhat humorous new forms with that deliriously pesky clarinet. There appears to be a faint echo of a hard gabber-techno night occurring about three blocks away, so faint you'll not really detect it without headphones. The low rumbling sound of a something like a major dance festival blowing gently in the night breeze from miles away, discreetly invading these intimate intuitive acoustics makes for quite an arresting listen. We know how many parties happen in Amsterdam.

Fans of Machinefabriek-style avant-noise, the possibilities inherent in brazen outsider electronics and structure-baiting fuck-you jazz such as Brotzmann will love some of the mad shit going down on this record. It ain't a party starter but an ice-cool alien wallflower of a record that you'll be pleased you made your acquaintance with.

 

  • Available on:
    LP £15.29

Never Spoke A Mumbin' Word
Mamaleek

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

7/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

Not remotely sure what the funking hell is going on here. Like....that Deafhaven record that sold really well and was packaged like an electronica record but was, like, black metal? WITH A PINK GRAPHIC DESIGNED SLEEVE? What would Burzum say? I thought this unusual looking shagger was gonna be weird-y psychedelia or some Muslimgauze Arabian beats style thing. Instead I've got some distorto shoegaze doom sludge dirge with guttural screaming. I genuinely didn't know what speed it was supposed to be at for five minutes. 33 - too slow, 45 - too fast. What would Peel do?

This kind of record confuses me so much. It's like early Fuck Buttons, early Earth, Big Black, Wolves in the Throne Room and Wold (depending on your speed of choice) chucked into a huge sick-bag with a load of pig entrails and urine only to be swiftly burst over the eager faces of your well-scrubbed kids in the front row at their first ever gig. I cannot work out whether its really any good or not as there's too much sonic overload fighting for attention. The drum machine sounds like it's been made out of scrap metal and old pistons. Once the track I believe to be 'Poor Mourner's Got A Home' kicks in after some murky Eastern-flecked ambience, it's brutal stoner-punk horror-fest time. It Never. Bloody. Ends. Mamaleek are the aural equivalent of "the meathook scene" from TCM on repeat.

Strangely thrilling in all its sheer down-tuned malevolence. Violent but exciting music if only because the guitars are, like, beyond 'Loveless' unearthly. Picture young Kevin Shields on a crazed mogadon, pie and pcp bender. I'd like to review more of this but it's actually a bit too full-on mental for me. I think my "metal mate" Slam would totally adore it.

 

  • Available on:
    LP £18.59

Futurama, Leeds, September 8th 1979
Joy Division

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

7/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

This is a bootleg. No really. It's been out before in the mid-80s as a German-pressed vinyl that now commands a lot of money. As tape recordings go from the late 70's it's really not actually that bad a listen. A bit muddied and bass-ey with the usual mild tape echo/wow and flutter/quiet crowd chatter but as a worthy document of a now monumentally important post-punk band in their violent prime it does the job more than adequately.

It feels quite a privilege to hear this spooky transmission from John F. Keenan's legendary Futurama festival at the now-demolished Queens Hall here in sunny Leeds (for once, not a trace of sarcasm there). Wish I'd have been there, they sound seriously possessed and edgy. For serious JoyDiv collectors only but just how many of THEM are there? Seriously,  I've heard so many worse live recordings from this time so it'd be an insult to merely look at the pretty vinyl and shelve it like a nob-head.

  • Available on:
    LP £19.99

Amnesia
Amanda X

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

6/10 according to our Brian on 31st July 2014

It was either review this or roll around the office laughing hysterically at the new Inspiral Carpets album. Guess which way I rolled? You like that don't you? I'm a comedian me.

Amanda X is a rubbish name. I'm on rubbish band name hunt this week I am. Amanda X often sound like a slowed-down, more chugging Sleater-Kinney. But a little muddied, denser and not as musically accomplished. Not that that ever remotely mattered! I think this record is mastered slightly too drum/bass-heavy; it drowns out some of the subtlety and makes it sound lumpen. I really like the vocals, there's a good bit of spirit and some sweet co-harmonising there but the songs sometimes come across plodding, a tad pedestrian. Overall it's a little like what Carrie Gravybrowningstain does now with her band.

I adored Sleater-Kinney when they sounded so knife-edge intense and banshee wild I'd put 'Dig Me Out' on five times in a row so I could feel wired enough to hurl myself out of a plane. Sadly, Amanda X, as earthy and enjoyable as they are, will probably never cause me to destroy my bedroom like the angsty 15 year-old girl I undoubtedly still am. Still, there's some promise here and I'd like to hear them in a couple of years time to see how they've progressed.

So despite their banal moniker (X would be quite sufficient surely?) they're another cool three-piece American girl band with some quality songs that will appeal to fans of Standard Fare, Emma Pollock, Vivian Girls and The Wedding Present.

I must say here that I really, really miss Grass Widow.

 

  • Available on:
    LP £15.89

Club
Para One

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

6/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

I first heard this French dude when his 'Beat Down' appeared on a Team Shadetek twelve inch years back. It was basically an astonishing futuristic French rap tune, fiercely vibrant and sharp shit. I loved it to bits, DJd with it and then, sadly, forgot about it. I forget so much me. Now I want to hear it again because his direction these days is more in the vein of compressed, punchy day-glo techno-pop bollocks like Daft Punk or Basement Jaxx. Bit more edgy on the beats front I suppose but hackneyed vocodery vocals and pompous 80's Prince synths make me feel a bit of sick in my throat.

Not saying he's a bad producer - this shit sounds particularly slamming in parts and would devastate a festival tent.....just to me 'Club' is going to be more use to the Calvin Harris crew than a jaded arse like myself. Epic, bouncy and commercial but with some rather effective lazer-trance bits that remind me what a great time I had watching Vitalic last Saturday at a festival in Lancashire. I think I'd like Para One more if I was really off my face in a field in the company of 5000 people. Not sober in my front room of a weekday.

 

  • Available on:
    Double LP £15.59

Draft Culture
Dorian Concept

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

6/10 according to our Brian on 25th July 2014

Bloody waste of time one-sided twelve inches. Put more music on the thing you tight cnuts. The world IS slowly dying you fools? Is there 500 people who really want this? Who the flange are Dorian Concept anyway? What A SH*T NAME.

Rant over, this isn't a bad tune remotely to be fair. Post-dubstep/FlyLo skippity-hop grooves with a nice bright summery lollop to it, 'Draft Culture' has everything pleasant in place. It's the Children's TV presenter of bass music. Field music for Bonobo fans to skank happily to? Bit safe and one-dimensional maybe... Won't set the world on fire but definitely a nice mood piece for the radio on a hot day. I want a glass of ice cold Reisling now for some reason. It is lunchtime!

 

  • Available on:
    12" £7.49

Lampenfieber
Matthew Swinnerton

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

8/10 according to our Clinton on 25th July 2014

Loads of new titles on ace London label Trestle this week and we’re all chipping in to ensure you hear about them. This album of krauty guitar instrumentals is the brightest and most upbeat of what I’ve heard so far.

Following an an opening ambient piece, the album bursts into life with a severely lovely meditative guitar exploration called ‘A Night Out With the Lads’. As Neu-ish drums pound away, Swinnerton adds layers of tight, precise guitar, its laid back sunny day vibe recalling American Analogue Set or Dylan Group. The title track too is gorgeous with nicely reverbed guitar picking out eerie patterns over the odd distant rattle. The album drifts between ambient interludes, Yellow 6-like low key blissed out pieces and upbeat kraut-jams  ‘Keep On Trucking In The Free World’ is very much in the latter camp with guitars strummed this time and gently layered synths added.

The spectre of Durutti Column appears on the very brief ‘Hafenstrasse’ but the superb ‘Viking Sunrise’ is very much a highlight and much thrall to early Tortoise. I’m also reminded of the dusty sun-dappled guitar twang of Pell Mell. Great stuff throughout.       

 

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99

Transparency
One Circle

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

7/10 according to our Clinton on 25th July 2014

I like these Gang of Ducks releases. They are sealed so as always I’m reviewing them off sound clips but from what I’ve heard this sounds like another quacking (sorry) release. The opening track has some deep sub bass, clattering electronics which seques into a kind of chattering keyboard with some full on synth sqwark. As usual with Gang of Ducks stuff there’s something slightly disconcerting about it all. When they veer into dub techno there’s still lots of fart synths on offer and the whole thing appears to be falling in and out of time. I can hear a few almost Happy Hardcore type sounds on here, its not every day you can say that but in general its oddball, off-the-wall electronica with lots of bloopy synths.

Definitely a label thats at the beak of their game. (Don’t worry, I’m going home soon)



  • Available on:
    12" £10.89

Second
Tout

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

9/10 according to our Ian on 25th July 2014

After receiving a fantastic sampler from relatively new London label Trestle Records I’ve been champing at the bit to say a few words about one of these new releases, I’m thrilled to bits to get my hands on this second full length from Tout cuz it’s right up my street. The label itself is aimed specifically at experimental instrumental music of many different varieties, there’s minimal ambient, electronica, math-rock and neo-classical, Tout are of the folk tinged post-rock persuasion, there’s all sorts of elements to their sound with a little Rachels here and a sprinkle of State River Widening there and I’m definitely reminded of Tara Jane O’Neil’s old band The Sonora Pine.

This is full of those lovely dusty country vibes that make you think of lonely old desert highways strewn with tumbleweed and the hot sun shimmering from the tarmac, gently fingerpicked guitars acoustic and electric flutter along with only a viola and a little Rhodes for company, as just a two man outfit of Jonny Fryer and Nick Downes (and a few other friends along for the ride) they create a sound much more than the sum of their parts, both orchestral and minimal but with a back to basics rock sound and no real studio trickery it’s so refreshing to hear music this honest these days.

 

  • Available on:
    LP £12.99

Entering Again
Colin Potter

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

9/10 according to our Jim on 31st July 2014

Mesmerising, bliss inducing synth mantras fill this vinyl reissue of an early 80s cassette release by Nurse With Wound, Current 93 and Organum collaborator Colin Potter. Everything’s been remastered to give this release an extremely satisfying, full-frequency immersive quality just perfect for Potter’s hypnotically layered music. There’s a naive simplicity to the directness of the cyclical melodies and upfront synthesizer tones that form the basis of the tracks here that feels like a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of the current retro komische acts aiming for a similar kind of sound and effect with their music.

I’d even say that it has perhaps aged better than some of the stuff that must have influenced Potter at the time, like Tangerine Dream or Harmonia- due perhaps to the punk-informed, diy spirit in which the recordings were made.

Although most of the tracks here rely on extended repetition, Potter builds up layers of riffs, melodic motifs and drones to keep the tracks evolving. The gorgeous analogue quality of the tones and the denseness of the interaction between the sound layers coupled with the mesmerising, swirling repetitions gives each track that addictive, almost narcotic effect of all the best looped music, and all shot through with an uplifting sense of awe.  

  • Available on:
    LP £15.89

Foxfur & Rarebits
The Iditarod

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8/10 according to our Jim on 25th July 2014

This is a new collection of material by psychedelic folk group The Iditarod that was originally spread out over short run cdrs, 7"s and various compilations between 2000-2003. Now often viewed with the benefit of hindsight as a precursor of the so-called ‘Freak Folk’ movement, they developed quite an idiosyncratic version of folk music that combined sparse song structures, spectral vocals and experimental arrangements and atmospheric sound textures. Their combination of disparate influences are apparent across this record, with Carin Sloan’s vocals bringing to mind Shirley Collins’ work with the Albion Band or the spookier side of Cat Power and the music sounding like a slightly catatonic Pentangle one minute and The Dead C jamming on some found acoustic instruments the next.

Overall, its a dark, slow burner of an album and the tracks work well together, even though they were never originally intended to be presented as an album in this way. The intimate, home-recorded feel of the tracks adds to the deeply personal and atmospheric nature of the music while the sometimes sketchy structures make the songs seem all the more ghostly and elusive.This would be a good one to come back to in the winter.

 

  • Available on:
    LP £12.69

A Still From The Film
Karina ESP

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7/10 according to our Jim on 25th July 2014

An album of guitar-based ambient music from Chris Gowers, who incidentally also runs Trome Records and is one half of Lowered. Side A consists of one long piece (‘Low Red Room’) that develops subtly, starting of with a warm static crackle out of which sombre chords fade before a gracefully plucked nylon stringed guitar marks a segue into a more sustained drone of ethereal modulating tones. Gowers’ mellow, clean and sustaining tone and the slow drift of the music here brings to mind players like Oren Ambarchi or early Taku Sugimoto.

Side B starts with a stripped down song for nylon guitar and Gowers’ hushed, distant vocals. Then we have a reprise of ‘Low Red Room’ where the intensity of the drones and static is gradually built up and dissipates before it gets too uncomfortable. We’re back to the nylon guitar for the final track ‘Distant Light’, this time joined by bass guitar, drums and Gowers’ distant, depressed monologue. There’s a real grace to the restrained playing here that reminds me of another antipodean experimentalist, Dean Roberts. As the cyclical chord progression subtly amasses layers of ringing drones, every small nuance of Gowers’ manipulation of his sustaining guitar becomes prominent in how it affects the delicate balance of the piece.

 

  • Available on:
    LP £12.69

All The Pictures Will Be Gone
Wolke

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6/10 according to our Jim on 31st July 2014

Here’s an album of breezy, pastoral glitchtronica from Milan on Abandon Building. Across the course of this album, Wolke (Fabrizio Cacciamali) shows his skill at crafting melodic electronic miniatures, peppered with all manner of bubbling, skittering textures. You might tend to associate glitch electronic with cold, austere soundscapes, this is anything but that, the tracks here are infused with a tender warmth and a sense of nostalgia.

While Wolke has definitely developed an identifiable signature style, its not really that original and reminds me of the sweeter side of early Black Dog and Opto, a collaboration from the early noughties between Alva Noto and Opiate. The combination of resonant, meandering melodies and fleeting, ultra high-definition detail has always been a winning formula in ambient music and this album definitely luxuriates in that area, without worrying itself about adding anything especially innovative.

  • Available on:
    CD £6.99

Benjamin Booker
Benjamin Booker

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9/10 according to our Kate on 30th July 2014

Sometimes, I admit, I find myself scratching my head (in a confused way, not in a nits way) when I hear whatever is being bandied about as ‘the coolest thing right now’. But, while there’s inevitably always going to be an element of Emperor’s New Clothes about the hip music the kids are digging right now, Benjamin Booker’s amazing debut album lives up to, mercilessly slays, then dances on the grave of its own hype.

There is quite simply nothing not to like here. First track (and single) ‘Violent Shiver’ kicks off with a bang to rival the one that led to the creation of the universe. Raw, riotous, dazzling punk, meticulously executed beneath vocals that sound like someone shouting in their sleep – Booker’s voice is urgent yet horizontally laid back all at once. The frenzy prevails into the next track ‘Always Waiting’, a folk-punk bomb of a track with dirty distortion and a growing sense of urgency, and the wonderfully filthy and dark lament ‘Happy Homes’ simply massively kicks ass.

But this is no straightforward punk album. ‘Slow Coming’ and ‘I thought I heard you screaming’ showcase Booker’s bluesier side. His vocals hiss and crack like hailstones on hot tarmac, reminiscent at times of Ray Lamontagne (but if Lamontagne has the tone of breeze through a wind chime, Booker’s wind chime has grit lodged in there).

As well as the ace dirty rawness, there is also a real maturity to this album. The band is flawless and incredibly tight (the Hammond organ is used to great effect without ever being obtrusive), and the roomy, raw production is spot on. Booker’s lyrics shine also; melancholic with a huge streak of darkness (‘Rest your head now, we all end up on the side of the road’). I simply can’t adequately convey how brilliant this album is, so basically I suggest you stop reading this review right now and buy it.

 

  • Available on:
    CD £9.69, LP £14.99

Twisted Souvenirs
Hayvanlar Alemi

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10/10 according to our Mike on 25th July 2014

I haven't come across Hayvanlar Alemi before but Turkey's premier instro-psych rockers have already got an LP out on Sublime Frequencies that our Phil liked a lot so I'm interested. I'm spinning their new platter 'Twisted Souvenirs' right now and it's proper down and dirty instrumental rock with a nice mixture of Melvinsy noise sludge, hypnotic East-meets-West rhythms, psychedelic riffing with some Dick Dale-ish sounding Eastern melodies delivered in chunky, filthy noise rock tones.

A ripping fuzz guitar overhaul of Mulato Astatke's'Yekermo Sew' which opens the second side is an instant highlight, with a bouncing snare groove and buzzy guitar tone that seems almost like a nod to Japanese eleki legend Takeshi Terauchi but with a modern muscularity and thickness to the production. Although it's the kind of weirdo instrumental rock that'll probably never reach as big an audience as it deserves, but this is right up there with The Unsemble and Belfi/Grubbs/Pilia in the instrumental-album-of-2014 stakes.

An indulgently listenable combination of brutal tones and assured musicality, I'd like to listen to this all day but alas I have other records to write about.

  • Available on:
    LP £18.79

Brainded warrior / So Stoned
Zig Zags

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9/10 according to our Mike on 25th July 2014

Oof! I think the Zig Zags are ruddy great, me. Right from that first 7" their obnoxious stoner-fuzz garage has been hitting all the right buttons for me. Here's a 7" of one of the highlights from their debut LP (awarded a rare 10/10 by yours truly just the other day). 'Brainded Warrior' is a snarling mixture of hair metal indulgence, dirty stoner loucheness and pacey riffs in a gut-punching neanderthal blast that'll clear your ear-tubes right out.

Overleaf is the excellently titled 'So Stoned', which starts out with a sample of some stereotypical Cali stoners talking about going to the beach before they kick into a filthy broken blues ripper with gang vocals and sarcastic vocals drenched in echo. It shudders along filthily enough and the snottiness reminds me of early Beastie Boys mixed with forgotten novelty rockers Surf Punks. These guys rule!

  • Available on:
    7" £5.99

Sea When Absent
A Sunny Day In Glasgow

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8/10 according to our Mike on 31st July 2014

Here's album number four from A Sunny Day In Glasgow. This is a geographically scattered troupe led by Ben Daniels, who somewhat confusingly resides in the always-sunny streets of Philadelphia. Owing to the distance between members none of these songs were actually recorded with all the band members in the same room.

In 'Sea When Absent' they expand upon the driving dreampop sound established on those early albums, but the vocals are more dry and present than the buried, wistful smudges of previous recordings, which gives them quite an easy-going indie rock immediacy, although our Phil reckons the slickening-up of their sound is to their detriment. Opener 'Byebye, Big Ocean (The End)' kicks things off in promising fashion with some crumbling JAMC-esque walls of fluffy guitar fuzz, bright synths complementing an uplifting Lush-ish distorto-drift.

This is an early high water mark they struggle to equal over the rest of the album, which while pleasant at worst can be a bit on the wishy-washy side. The Cocteaus-esque 'MTLOV (Minor Keys)' and the too-short 'Double Dutch' with its plodding robotic beat and juddering synth shimmers also warrant their own special mentions. Although there are places where they sound like they're on autopilot, there's enough meticulously realised dreampop goodness here to satisfy fans of the genre.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.89, LP £15.29

The Unravelling
Knifeworld

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8/10 according to our Mike on 31st July 2014

I'm kicking off a couple of gruelling days' review action with this wacky and sprawling offer from psych-prog-pop supergroup Knifeworld, who a sticker on the front proudly proclaims feature "members of" Cardiacs, Guapo, Chrome Hoof and Gong among their ranks. Further digging reveals that singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/benevolent dictator Kavus Torabi is at the helm, and it is he who has been "members of" all four of those bands (in fairness there are a couple of other Chrome Hooves involved). Mysteriously his work with Monsoon Bassoon and Mediaeval Baebes remain unmentioned.

As for the record itself, this is the second Knifeworld album, but the first since expanding from a solo project to a full eight-piece band. The arrangements are sprawling and grand but with the odd bit of cheeky unpredictability, setting one foot in whimsical psychedelic pop a la Syd Barrett/Of Montreal (even a touch of Ooberman in the cheesier moments) through to tightly arranged romanticism with brass and strings that remind me of Jaga Jazzist or Motorpsycho's early 2000's arranged pop period, all the way to the sweeping prog-metal bombast of bands like El Doom & The Born Electric or spiritual cousins Chrome Hoof.

It's an impressive LP, densely and meticulously arranged but with enough twists and turns to keep the listener on his/her toes. If you're into ambitious and well-produced proggy business this should make you happy, but if you find bands like Cardiacs and Chrome Hoof to be "a bit much" then you may struggle here too.

  • Available on:
    CD £11.59, LP £15.59

The Union
Hallock Hill

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8/10 according to our Mike on 28th July 2014

Here's Mike's review for the Union/ Hem Of Evening double set!

 

This is a lovely little package. It’s a gatefold 2LP with a sleek little book of pictures and poems and four sides of gently twisting guitar meditations from Tom “Hallock Hill” Lecky, which glide from awkward ambient backwards tinkerings to spiritual, spacious fingerpicking with dusky, evocative chords and fluid, delicate rhythms to layered and disorientating concordant thrum’n’chunter. As far as I can figure out, the first LP is his album ‘The Union’, on vinyl for the first time, and the second is his new record ‘A Hem of Evening’, which expands upon ‘The Union’’s musical themes.

I couldn’t tell you much about that from the perfunctory listen-through I’ve got time for in my hectic reviewing schedule but this is varied and skilled string-picking with an airy playfulness carving out wry, simple melodic shapes that spirit themselves away the moment you think you’ve got a grasp of them. Despite this fluid spontaneously composed style there’s always a focus and momentum to the gentle washes of notes.

The second album has less studio trickery and more spare almost Richard Bishop-esque tinkling for a rather sensuous, therapeutic listen with clear, ringing notes bundled together with warmth and balance and precision. I think I’m preferring this disc actually, it’s washing a little bit of my never-ending anxiety away with its graceful, expressive melodies. It’s really very nice.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.69

Spent The Afternoon
Full Ugly

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8/10 according to our Mike on 25th July 2014

Here's an LP from the questionably-monikered Full Ugly, the brainchild of Melbourne singer-songwriter Nathan Burgess, who was previously linked to Michael "Scott & Charlene's Wedding" Caterer before he upped sticks and moved to the Big Apple.
It should come as no surprise that 'Spent The Afternoon' is a collection of laid back, personable indie-pop that mixes S&CW's classic Aussie shamble with a sun-kissed slacker pop haze of bands like Triptides or Real Estate. Right from the start the songs have a shimmering, jangling warmth that's as welcoming as a nicely-worn-in pair of trainers. The vocals are faltering and naive, giving a nicely human quality to the big pop hooks Burgess keeps throwing out.

If you're into your classic jangle-rock from down under then you could do worse than giving this guy a go.

  • Available on:
    LP £17.39

My Skeleton
Claude Speeed

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9/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

Promising post-it on this one - "Interesting pulsy Glass-y instrumentals from what I hear" says someone else in the office, although I'm listening to it now and it's wildly varied, from cosmic electronics to windswept '80s movie synths, patient droning to warm repetitive beatmaking to soulful cosmic drift. As an added point of interest, most of these songs also contain field recordings and were made on Mr Speeed's netbook during his travels "on far away buses, trains, airports, cities, parks, temples, forests and jungles, floors, hotels, hostels, friends’ sofas".

An early highlight is 'Some Other Guy', which blends some abrasive, buzzing tones and heady earth's-core synth hums into a strangely moving dentist-drill chord sequence that defeatedly recedes into fluttering, broken ambience before unfolding hopefully delicate shimmering twinkles and ethereal synth tranquility before plunging headfirst into a digitised almost black metal-like guitar crackle.

The following track 'Tiger Woods' is another highlight and presumably the Philip Glass one mentioned earlier, a bouncy loopscape of jaunty clarinet parps and vocal drones that owes an obvious debt to the minimalist master. The whole thing is brimming with imaginative tones and heartwarming chord sequences and unexpected diversions, with the field recordings woven into the music in very subtle ways, as an element of the music itself rather than something added on top. I'm impressed.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.89

Life In A Scotch Sitting Room Vol. II
Ivor Cutler

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 31st July 2014

The late great Scottish eccentric Ivor Cutler appears on this oddity which is back on CD courtesy of Cherry Red after initially coming out in 1978 on Harvest. While there are tiny snippets of harmonium separating the individual short stories contained here, it's primarily a spoken word effort.
Cutler entertains an enthusiastic live Glasgow audience with a series of short anecdotes, numbered but not presented in numerical order, delivered dry and straight but with an understated smirk and parent-friendly sardonicism that reminds me of the likes of spiritual ancestor David Sedaris. The stories are gentle and everyday but the characters and situations he paints are convincingly three-dimensional and often laugh-out-loud funny, finding a kind of mid-point between thoughtful prose and stand-up comedy. It's a strange thing to have come out on Harvest, but remains an engaging and entertaining portrait of a wonderfully colourful character.

  • Available on:
    CD £8.39

They Want My Soul
Spoon

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 31st July 2014

Spoon are back! I'm not sure what Britt Daniel did to deserve the comparison to dreary-but-popular indie dirgers The National in the press release though - these guys have always been much more bright, upbeat and melodic than those misery-meisters. Those who are already familiar with the band won't be surprised to learn it's business as usual on 'They Want My Soul', a collection of chunky but economically arranged pop songs based around the band's guitar/bass/keys/drums formation.

It's a thoroughly charming sound this lot peddle, best realised on early '00s LPs 'Girls Can Tell' and 'Kill The Moonlight'; nice bouncy grooves, irresistibly catchy pop hooks and an easy-going aesthetic that's part Ben Folds Five, part Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I do get the feeling that they're sometimes treading water - sticking to what they know and refining that rather than stepping out of their comfort zone - but it's hard to hold that against them when such an intuitive songwriter and compelling frontman as Daniel is involved.

They have a knack for making records that sound instantly and effortlessly familiar, like the songs are being unlocked from your subconscious rather than entering your imagination for the first time, and this new album is as industrious and consistent as we've come to expect.

  • Available on:
    CD £11.59, LP £16.79

Arashi
Akira Sakata / Johan Berthling / Paal Nilssen-Love

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

Legendary free jazzer Akira Sakata teams up with regular Gustafsson-collaborators Johan Berthling and Paal Nilssen-Love as his incendiary rhythm section on this fierce display of honk'n'putter virtuosity from three trusted names. With Nilssen-Love at the sticks you know things are going to get clattery, and the drummer is matched step for step by his two lively collaborators, with Sakata's squeaky sax howls and urgently honked shapes stumbling and spiralling over the wash of rhythmic effluent like a panic-afflicted acid casualty on lengthy opener 'Arashi (Storm)'.

Sakata isn't just saxing though, but also clarinetting and providing some unique vocal howls and grunts to proceedings, ranting gutturally through 'Ondo No Huna-Uta (Rower's Song Of Ondo)' like Damo Suzuki possessed with the wildman spirit of Ghedalia Tazartes. I'm particularly enjoying it when they take the intensity down a notch on 'Dora', breaking into a gentle mid-paced jog full of melodic twists and turns that have a bit of Don Cherry about them.

  • Available on:
    LP £16.49

Dog Day Morning
Ross Downes

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

We've got some ambient business in from Trestle Records this week. You may be thinking, "Aren't we supposed to be boycotting Trestle?", but don't worry, that's Nestlé. These guys are fine. The one I'm listening to right now is Ross Downes' 'Dog Day Morning', a twisty collection of electro acoustic instrumentals which owe as much to soundtracks and post-rock as ambient atmospherics, taking cues, so the press release says, from Tortoise, Papa M and Do Make Say Think. Each track has a person's name, with no explanation why.

It's an intriguing album, shifting from warm electronics to silky Mark McGuire-ish guitar to cold Wray/Morricone-esque twanging to dystopian dronescapes littered with field recordings and clanging distortion, radio static, Black Eagle Child-esque delay pedal bliss outs and meditative cosmic synths. However there's always at least a thread of musicality binding it together so despite its almost schizophrenic mood range it never feels like hard work to listen to.

This is really nice stuff, thoughful and understated and personal but also quite sonically ambitious.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99

First
Tout

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

Here's the second of three Trestle Recs offerings I have to write about, the first of two albums by Tout. I'm not sure if that's from the French for "all" or the nasty scalper types who stand outside sold-out gigs trying to sell you tickets for inflated prices. I hope it's the former because those twats piss me off.

Anyway, what I gather from this CD is that Tout has a core trio of three guitarists, Neil Cain, Nick Downes and Jonny Fryer, who are joined by buddies on viola, piano and drums where they feel a little extra padding is required. There are eight tracks here of sleepily intertwined folky fingerpicking, loosely themed on Billy The Kid, which despite there being three guitars is still quite spacious and intimate sounding, with a communicative, intuitive and economical style.

There's a mixture of Fahey-esque acoustic tracks and swampily trudging electric ones like 'Of A Bloodthirsty Ogre' which remind me a little bit of a more tentative and atmospheric take on Earth's mystical minimal heaviness...maybe like if Earth did something with Jim Jarmusch, those kind of vibes.

It plods along at a measured pace with field recorded interludes separating the tracks. Evocative stuff.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99

Fuse Editions 001
BJ Nilsen

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

I've found a couple of colour-coded Fuse Editions cassettes up my tape-hole this week and this first one (Fuse Edition 001, no less) features two live performances by veteran sound artist BJ Nilsen - one practically on my doorstep in Bradford, the other all the way out in Marrakech.

It turns out that whichever continent he's on, Nilsen plays a beguiling mixture of drones and field recordings and subtle distorto-fuckery that can be a bit slow to get going but soon ascends into trance-like layers of flickering static, delicately throbbing drones and processed field recorded sound textures, with a strange push-and-pull between the angelic and demonic aspects of the subtle soundscapes. There's nearly an hour of his mysterious noises on the tape so you really get your money's worth here too.

  • Available on:
    Cassette tape £8.39

Hassan Falls To His Death
James Johnston

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

I love the macabre matter-of-factness of this album title, 'Hassan Falls To His Death'...it's got an almost Gabriel Garcia Marquez-ish quality to it, doesn't it? Here's three of three from my Trestle table for the day, and it's only bloody James Johnston from Gallon Drunk (not to mention stints with the Bad Seeds, Faust and Lydia Lunch). As a great admirer of the 'Drunk I'm intrigued to hear what he's doing solo.

I'm listening now and it's good, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) very different from his band, offering a mixture of curiously arranged soundtracky instrumentals and smeared layers of ambient drift. Opening in relatively conventional territory with the Morricone-ish melodica and windswept fiddle drones of 'A 281', it's not long before Johnson has sucked you into his languorous world of obsessive texture experiments. He'll draw you closer with a weird distant clicky guitar strum before whacking you sideways with a big ol' church organ, or layer snippets of crunching guitar feedback and field recordings into a dizzying robotic sound collage. The title track is good too, all wavering, faltering, weeping strings like a dronier Dirty Three. Good stuff.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99

Oscillations
Cosines

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

Here's the first full-length from Alice Hubley's latest outfit Cosines, offering us an appealing take on twee-pop from a strangely krautrock-ish angle, with the rhythms and synth lines often lending a Kraftwerk/Stereolab feel to their catchy, personable pop songs in amongst some more straightforward quirky indie fare that's not a million miles away from the Seven Inches.

It's a clever combination, since the nostalgic, robotic elements help scour off a little of the syrupiness that makes twee-pop a bit of a slog sometimes. I'm particularly liking the 'Look Around You'-ish library synth runs in 'Walking Away'. Overall it's a jaunty collection of bouncy and tuneful pop songs with a cool head-noddy kraut edge. Twee-pop can often be a bit too sickly for me but I'm finding this dead charming.

  • Available on:
    LP £12.69, CD £10.79

Tar & Feathers
Trzaska Mazur Pand

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8/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

From one skronk to another, I've just written about the Sharrock/Brotzmann set that's been unearthed by Trost and now I'm moving back to the present day (ish) with this CD which records the first meeting of three Hungarian musicians - on sax and clarinet Nikolaj Trzaska, on acoustic bass Rafal Mazur and on drums Balasz Pandi.

It's a muscular free jazz rumble but made fairly accessible by the lively East-meets-West melodicism, hypnotic cyclic patterns and droney honks of Trzaska while the twin rumble of Mazur and Pandi often takes quite a jazz-rock fusion feel, with the drummer (who's worked with the likes of Merzbow, Mats Gustafsson and Venetian Snares) building up an impressive head of steam with crisp snare work and wildly splashing cymbals.

As far as free skronk goes this is a pretty listenable and light-hearted offering.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.09

Owl John
Owl John

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7/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 31st July 2014

Frightened Rabbit main-man Scott Hutchison drops his first solo album (of sorts) this week with his solo-ish Owl John project, with bandmate Andy Monaghan and Olympic Swimmer Simon Liddell earning co-songwriting credits for the music, which details Hutchison's plans to create public lavatories for local bird life. Okay, I made that last bit up.

My hope was that this collection would be much more sparse, delicate and intimate than his better-known band (big stars stateside, so I hear) but to my slight disappointment it's a very similar kind of sweeping aesthetic happening here. When he does take things down to just a fingerpicked, reverby guitar, voice and subtle atmospherics, eventually giving way to robotic synth throbs and heartstring-tugging piano, on 'Ten Tons of Silence' it's certainly a highlight, and in a way this album seems like a missed opportunity to explore his relationship with said silence.

It's pretty and workmanlike and he's certainly not embarrassing himself, but most of the material here is fairly formulaic FR/Stornoway-ish Scotpop that doesn't really scale the heights of Hutchison's most famous project, but doesn't strip enough away from their aesthetic set itself apart as a particularly exciting project in its own right. To be fair to the lad though, it's apparently "warm up and inspiration" for the next FR effort so I shouldn't really hold the similarities against him.

  • Available on:
    CD £11.09, LP £14.19

Fuse Editions 002
Star Turbine

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7/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

And so I reach the final review of a long week with this mysterious Fuse Edition by Star Turbine. I just did one by BJ Nilsen and I think I'm starting to see a pattern emerge. That one had him performing at the Fuse Art Space in Bradford on one side and Marrakech the other; this has Star Turbine at Fuse on side A and in Edinburgh on the other.

I've not come across Star Turbine before but they're making a weird kind of broken ambience here with faltering machines buzzing and whistling around ghostly vocal croons and weird, slightly gross mouth noises, raspy rumbling drones and scratchy twitters and walkie-talkie hisses build up a mounting paranoia...I had thought it might be some kind of silky cosmic niceness to round off my day but actually it's pretty intense dark ambient experimentalism full of crumbling machinery and ritualistic tape abuse. Don't have nightmares, kids!

  • Available on:
    Cassette tape £8.39

Ela Stiles
Ela Stiles

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7/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

I've been putting off writing about this record for a good couple of days, all thanks to just two words on a post-it stuck to the front. "Entirely acapella" it says with ominous lack of judgement. While they are an emotionally brave move, I often find acapella albums awkwardly intimate and uncomfortably personal.

Thankfully Songs/Bushwalking warbler Ela Stiles has an interesting style here, mixing an Alasdair Roberts-ish plainsongy delivery with some subtle atmospherics which often employ processed vocal drones. There's even a wordless song which is in fact just called 'Untitled Drone', with angelic hums layered over one another to create strange psychoacoustics as if strings are mixed in with the voices. The more stripped back lyrical parts sound like they were recorded in a big reverby hall and are delivered loudly and confidently, which also helps alleviate the awkwardness, and the seven tracks are over well before boredom or irritation set in. This is much more meditative and likeable than I had feared.

  • Available on:
    LP £17.19, CD £11.59

smll hnd / dcftfl hnd
Phil Maguire

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

7/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

Here's a tape from Phil Maguire, 'smll hnd/dctfl hnd' (pronounced "smell hand/deceitful hound") which features seven tracks of static drones. Now from my experience static drones can be some of the hardest drones to write about because they are, well, static. More of a meditation tool than a journey to be documented.

There's only 50 of these tapes, which are the product of the Huddersfield sound designer playing a series of "sound games" with sounds derived from such everyday objects as boilers and hard drives. The result is a collection of oozing, granular textures that hum and shimmer laced with tiny melodic details. It's late night deep listening stuff to zone out to.

  • Available on:
    Cassette tape £4.99

untitled#290
Francisco Lopez

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

7/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

This is one of those CDs that you put on your player and then think "Is this CD actually playing?...And where's that weird noise coming from?", opening as it does with the muffled rumble of distant thunder, but before too long Lopez's serene drones start to materialise in the soundfield like abandoned panpipes playing themselves in the wind.

This is the 290th numbered piece from prolific sound artist Francisco Lopez and all five tracks here are created entirely from mutated sound material recorded in Rotterdam in 2011, having been commissioned for the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2012. It's quite a meditative and peaceful listen, but the sound sources themselves can be a bit of a guessing game, having evolved from their original form into soft industrial drones and weird boinks and dinks and rumbles. They're morphed into immersive, otherworldly atmospheres with an interesting mixture of menace and softness.

Fans of ambient sound designers like Machinefabriek will enjoy this.

  • Available on:
    CD £13.99

Whatthefuckdoyouwant
Peter Brötzmann / Sonny Sharrock

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

7/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 25th July 2014

Skronk fans rejoice! Here's a live recording of Peter Brotzmann and Sonny Sharrock freaking the fuck out for ages way back in 1987. It's from Brotz's own personal archive and it's a pretty clear and crisp recording, with 11 tracks running to well over an hour of listening pleasure.

These two are both pretty big names on the free skronk circuit so you've probably got a good idea what to expect. Sharrock busts out some expressive crunch'n'mangle on a harsh, gainy guitar while Brotzman screams and wiggles around on his saxophone, carving colourful honking splatters in the air like sonic fireworks.

There's no denying that the glee and vigour with which these two approach their instruments, combined with the sensitivity of their interactions, makes for compelling listening, but it takes a certain kind of person to listen to more than an hour of this without feeling like their grip on reality is loosening. I made it about halfway and then started to feel a bit queasy, but if you're shopping for a Brotzmann/Sharrock record in the first place you're probably the kind of person that relishes such a challenge.

  • Available on:
    CD £13.99

Time Is Over One Day Old
Bear In Heaven

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

6/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 31st July 2014

Bear In Heaven return this week with some more of their dreamy synthpop - a dewy-eyed concoction which is one part Simple Minds/Ultravox synth'n'guitar dramatics and one part Pet Shop Boys/Hot Chip deadpan pop. It's a very polished mixture, with big compressed production and intricate synth programming driving the songs forward in a swirling amorphous mass.

They're at their most effective when they're going all-out pop but Bear In Heaven seem to have some '80s goth-ish leanings which mean that doesn't happen all too often, mostly opting for a propulsive trudge of synth textures and flatly-delivered, sometimes almost chant-like vocals. It's a heady mixture, professionally delivered, but does get a little samey over the course of an entire album. It's competent enough but a little lacking in variation and highlights.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.09, LP £14.99

Prelude
Longfellow

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

5/10 according to our ReviewBot3000 on 31st July 2014

Having only played their debut gig about a year ago, Longfellow already have three 7"s under their belts and now they have an album. Well, I say an album, this eight-tracker only contains two songs that weren't on the aforementioned singles. I'm assuming it's serving as a "Prelude" to their debut album proper.

They're playing an earnest and sweeping indie pop with big booming pianos and slick production from the Coldplay/Keane school of drab, windswept melodic anonymity. Big cinematic arrangements, falsetto keening and cloying Radio 6 sentimentality all rub shoulders on this professionally constructed but sadly personality-resistant collection. I don't like it, so they'll probably be huge.

  • Available on:
    CD £7.49