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Staff reviews this week

Good or bad, here's what we think of this week's crop of new releases.

Please note: All views expressed are those of individual staff and not Norman Records as a whole.


10 people love me. Be the 11th...

9/10 according to our Ant

I have a strange relationship with the music of Coil. Some of their work I absolutely adore and is among some of my favourite music ever created. Music of unparalleled beauty. Then there’s the other side where there’s tracks I literally can’t bare to listen to, and when I do come across them I have to skip them, as they simply make me cringe. ‘Backwards’ traverses both sides of their music. That’s not to say other listeners couldn’t feel the stuff I don’t feel but their catalogue is so vast; if you loved absolutely everything they did you’re probably some kind of weirdo.

Originally created between their classics ‘Love's Secret Domain’ and ‘Musick to Play In The Dark’ spanning the years 1992-1995, ‘Backwards’ never officially saw the light of day. Instead tracks were remixed and later formed ‘The New Backwards’ as well as being scattered across their masterpiece ‘The Ape Of Naples’. It’s fascinating to hear early incarnations of stone cold classics like ‘A Cold Cell’, ‘Amber Rain’ ‘Heaven’s Blade’. This marked the point where Jhon Balance’s vocals and lyrics were at the absolute peak of their powers. When Jhon and Sleazy made their transition to the next life they each left behind a part of themselves that will continue to resonate with listeners for eternity.

The loss of these two visionary artists is in many ways tragic, and yet ironically, it was Jhon’s awareness and obsession with his own mortality that was one of the absolute foundations of the music of Coil and a key component in the music's power. Their music, specifically in these tracks, you could say is the story of their spirits temporarily inhabiting their human form and the struggle of coming to terms with what it means to be human. Both beautiful and nightmarish, and bloody essential for any Coil fan.

19805. -_ 19905,

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

8/10 according to our Ant

You remember those records on Avian sister label Mira right? 10”s from Bleaching Agent, Covered In Sand, Prostitutes, Zov Zov, Worn, Burma Camp and Faugust. Distinctively different from the output on Avian, all great stuff too. Well apparently Mira is no more... but weep not because Avian has now absorbed Mira and will release material that previously may have ended up on as part of that series of 10"s.

The first fruits of the two labels merging into one comes from Lituus; an alias of Chi-town based artist Connor Camburn. A name that’s never appeared on my radar before, and so having total faith in Shifted’s curation of his labels; I’m all ears to hear what this guy gets up to. As expected it’s right up Ant Street. The first track ‘PRTN:_001/.1 /’ rattles round my skull like the hazy memories/ aftermath of what I experienced in a club the night before. Techno stripped and deconstructed into what sounds like the re-manifestation of the physical vibrations experienced remoulded back into sound. So like the feeling you get from techno without the explicit use of its component sounds. ‘PRTN:_002/.1’ uses a sound palate not uncommon in modern techno, working loops into heady hypnotic minimalism for heads rather than feet. Similarly there’s not a 909 or 808 to be found in ‘PRTN:_003/.1’ foregrounding techno compatible synth phrases that subtly transform, the magic happening in a similar way to say a Maurizio loop where nuance is key.

‘RTN:_001/.2’ over on the B-side is industrial music/ mechanical machine music reduced to it’s absolute core. Sounding like a sewing machine with a propeller mapping out microrhythms. ‘PRTN:_002/.2’ does a similar thing with clicky/ bleepy/ liquid sounds that come across as techno created in some insectoid microcosm. Closing track ‘PRTN:_003/.2’ is like the looped whistles of mechanical birds which initially felt jarring but once absorbed in the pattern becomes pretty tranquil.


6 people love me. Be the 7th...

8/10 according to our Ant

Samuel Kerridge’s Contort label hits its fifth release, branching out into dark electroacoustic terrain with a four track EP from WSR aka Emanuele Porcinai. So Porcinai’s creative process is both analogue and digital, involving sources from both synthesized and acoustic instruments, manipulated with good old fashioned spools of tape and electronically (presumably computer). The results; a collision of modern classical, industrial music and I suppose techno.

‘Debris’ opens the EP with tape warped piano and tender acoustic guitar phrase, gently and increasingly bathed in saturated tape his before the shudder of tumbling beats kick in and longing slightly dissonant, melancholy keys add an additional layer of beauty, reminiscent in mood of some of AFX’s ‘Analord’ tracks.

The title track gets to work on the lug holes and cerebrum with brooding bass and what sounds like the tinkling of processed Tibetan singing bowls, before hard-hitting drum hits hammer and reverberate alongside groaning, demonic wolf sounds. The brutality is tamed with lush synth --so things feel powerful rather than aggressive or violent.

If Greek chamber doomer’s Mohammad joined forces with Kerridge, Ben Frost and Roly Porter and made industrial edged techno it might sound something like ‘No Horizon’. ‘Inner Oceans’ has something of a Muslimgaze/ Vatican Shadow type Middle Eastern feel, slowly building with mystical drones and a submerged rhythmic skeleton into a cinematic, widescreen piece that closes the EP in fine style.

Donato Dozzy
The Loud Silence

8 people love me. Be the 9th...

8/10 according to our Ant

Perhaps reading about this album’s creation before listening would have better prepared me for what on first listen came as somewhat of a shock. I’m a big fan of lots of Italian producer Donato Dozzy’s techno/ ambient/ acid productions and would consider myself familiar with his sound, so never in a zillion years was I expecting what I thought sounded like electrified jaw harps. A post listen read confirmed that was exactly what I was hearing. Then I clocked the picture on the cover and the penny dropped. That first listen was on fairly low volume and so the jaw harp sounds seemed to dominate the mix and all I could think of was Rolf Harris i.e proper twangy sounds. Dozzy know’s what he’s doing so I tried again, increasing the volume and you know, maybe this isn’t such a radical departure from previous works after all. In some ways he’s using the instrument in a similar way to his use of the Roland TB-303. Yes folks mouth harp acid!

Opening track ‘Personal Rock’ has the instrument fairly recognisable; a clear statement of intent as to what he’s doing. As it’s split across the stereo field it has a similar strange effect to some of Hecker or EVOL's radical computer music although Dozzy uses processed field recordings/ found sounds lower in the mix to create something far less sterile. ‘Cross Panorama’ is chilled ambient that could have appeared on his brilliant ‘K’ album. Here the harp’s subtler use echoes in the distance and sounds really quite tranquil. ‘The Loud Silence’ slowly builds tension, the harp becomes acidic sounding; like pure electricity and reminds me of the acid on ye olde Source Experience tune ‘Elektra’ from way back on R&S. ‘The Net’ gets all gloopy liquid acid dub. ‘Downhill To The Sea’ could almost soundtrack some beautiful natural world time-lapse film of flowers blossoming and changing weather systems. A deep bassline and trickling acid flowing and branching out into complex spatiotemporal patterns. ‘Concert For Sails’ is so fluidic sounding if you happen to need a wee, you’ll be in serious danger of having a little ‘accident’. The bubbling liquid sounds pouring from the speakers are so tangible I feel I could dive into them and get wet. The super trippy ‘Exit The Acropolis’ closes the album and had me feeling like I’d transformed into some kind of protoplasmic invertebrate jelly hanging out with plankton.

After my initial disappointment/ bewilderment with ‘The Loud Silence’ I’m glad I pursued the album -- third time lucky as they say, although a couple of tracks my ears still find just too twangy. The entire record carries Dozzy’s very distinctive sound despite his use of peculiar tools as sound sources. The results something familiar yet simultaneously original.

Mecanica Popular
¿Qué Sucede Con El Tiempo?

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

8/10 according to our Ant

Andy Votel, Sean Canty (Demdike Stare) and Doug Shipton’s Dead-Cert label have unearthed and reissued this curious record from Mecanica Popular. Originally coming out of Madrid back in 1984 and now available for consumption by a new generation. Because of its relative obscurity it’s difficult to say whether this has been influential or not but these guys were certainly ahead of the curve in many ways and were absorbing influences from great sources, remoulding them into their own vision of electronic music.

‘¿Qué Sucede Con El Tiempo?’ is a diverse and vibrant collection of tracks. The concrète post disco/ proto-techno of ‘La Edad Del Bronce’ having something of a feel of Throbbing Gristle’s Hot On The Heels Of Love’. Short interlude ‘Impresionistas 2’ sounds like it was lifted off of Jon Hassell & Brian Eno’s ‘Fourth World Vol 1: Possible Musics’ and reappears later in fuller form on ‘Daguerrotipo / Ambrotip'. The looped up ‘Quiero Irme’ recalls the experiments of early tape music, while there’s moments such as ‘Siempre Tú’ which is a little reminiscent of Cluster. The Musique concrète/ electroacoustic parts of the record recall Bernard parmegiani or even Akos Rozmann. Closer ‘Máquinas Y Procedimientos’ sounds like some gloomy haunted ship building yard on mars. In some ways this manages to sound both ahead of, and of its time; which is a quality I really rather like. Hat’s off to those guys for digging this one up.

Michael Chapman

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

9/10 according to our Clinton

When stuck I like to think of Michael Chapman as a direct cross between John Fahey and Jim Bowen. Both masters in their particular field but Chapman is more than just a wise cracking guitar man, he has made straightforward singer songwriters, he's gone to the moon and back with Thurston Moore but his best work is when he gets his guitar out of it’s case and simply plays it. His ‘Trainsong' collection for example is essential listening for any fan of rolling guitar textures.

Here, on the cusp of his 75th birthday is the Michael Chapman of my dreams. It's Michael Chapman playing guitar nicely and it’s all anyone could wish for. On opener ‘Plain Old Bob has a Hoe Down’ his beautiful rolling playing is joined by some nice percussion and a kick drum for an upbeat slice of pastoral bliss. ‘Lament for Nepal’ is more sombre with dissonant chords echoing away. Where Chapman continues to pluck up sun-dappled delights such as ‘Wrytree Gift’ is anyones guess. It’s the pure sound of early morning sun glinting on a lake and it is unbearably pretty.

Though Chapman is joined by cello player Sarah Smout on ’Stockport Monday’, the majority of this record is almost entirely solo. If you’ve seen Chapman live you’ll know his guitar playing is mesmerising and large chunks of this album are perfect examples of his way with pretty chords and thick fingerpicking. There's a chunkiness in Chapmans picking that I rarely hear in other players  - like a lifetime of fine stout and Yorkshire puddings have thickened his movements. He is not only the greatest living Northern English guitarist but dare I say the greatest living guitarist in the entire world and this album is an absolute embarrassment of riches.   

Bert Jansch

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

A friend of mine was visiting his sister in London when she introduced him to a neighbour who was known locally as a musician. My friend liked the guy and listened intently to him play then on departure innocently wished him well with his music career. It was only later he was informed that the man was Bert Jansch. If this goes to show how unassuming Jansch was then the rich tapestry of music he left behind suggest he had no reason to be so modest.
It might be unfair and lazy to call ‘Moonshine’ his best album but it’s the one I own and play most frequently and so I have  many reasons to recommend it. The record is perfect misty early ’70’s folk with big chunky guitar chords backed by scattershot drums, Danny Thompson’s ever woody double bass and an orchestra of flutes. The compositions are a mixture of traditional songs and Jansch originals although the highlight the frost bitten ‘The January Man’ is a Dave Goulder composition. This is perfect winter folk, you can almost feel the dew dropping off bare branches. It’s taken a few years but I now finally hear the much vaunted influence of Jansch on Johnny Marr. The opening ‘Yarrow’ (another tremendous effort) is full of the type of chop and jangle complicated structures Marr invented for the early Smiths. The album holds a mood throughout  - a dusky understated feel. It’s not as freewheeling as Fairport Convention nor as obviously folky as Pentangle or heart wrenchingly pretty as Nick Drake, instead it sits between.
A must-own record from a golden era of folk. 

Drew McDowall

8 people love me. Be the 9th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

We’ve sold an absolute ton of these on pre-order. It’s the debut LP from former Coil and Psychic TV member McDowall and seeing as though he has been making music since the 1970’s it’s been worth the wait.

The mention of the likes of Coil in his back pages might suggest that this is scary and threatening but I’m finding it a very relaxing listen. The first side is split into three parts of a piece entitled ‘The Chimeric Mesh Withdraws’ which has churning industrial electronics giving way to eerie and grainy organ drones. This is a very textural record, you can hear the influence of industrial music but it’s manifested in a much more subtle way with shards of vintage synth and low end drones providing a dark backdrop.  The most impressive track is ‘Hypnotic Congress’ where pulsing fizzy mini-electronics is replaced by an almost tribal set of vocal chants.

It’s the kind of electronic record that you will need to live with  - it’s tones are quiet but soothing. You can tell a tremendous amount of care has gone into the layering of these tonal pieces. 

Slow Riffs
Gong Bath / Virgo Dub / Peace Arch

8 people love me. Be the 9th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

Gosh this is nice. After Donato Dozzy’s attempt to make techno music using just a jew’s harp, this is another wildly off piste taste of techno.

On ‘Gongs Bath’ watery sounds cascade over some gorgeous synth pads whilst just sneaking into the mix are some distant tribal beats. Occasionally a bass is added but that’s as ‘dance floor’ as it gets. This is beautiful new agey techno, in fact, I’m wondering why I’m even calling it techno - it has the feel of techno and uses some of the same ingredients but you are never going to be able to dance to it. Overleaf, ‘Virgo Dub’ is similarly beatless has a sweeping circular motion like waves lapping on a shore whilst closer ‘Peace Arch’ changes tack completely with some free jazz drums and Philip Glass style repetitive vibraphone.

I'm hoping this will help me relax. 

Chain of Flowers
Chain of Flowers

2 people love me. Be the 3rd...

7/10 according to our Clinton

Poor old our Ian. He’s living on the breadline and it’s all because of shoegaze. With Ride and Slowdive reforming, Swervedriver still going strong all his spare income is spent on going to see them in concert. I’m thinking of setting up a shoegaze food bank for fellow sufferers.  Thing, is it’s mot just the nostalgia bands but a host of young whippersnappers trying to take away his cash. The latest are Cardiff’s Chain of Flowers who do a particularly post-punk take on shoe-gaze. In fact at times as on ‘Crisis’ they sound more like The Chameleons than anything else with their flanged guitars and sky scraping melodies. This is a big big sound. It’s shoe gaze for the mountains….a U2 and Big Country influenced take on wall of sound guitars.

They blast through the album at whippersnapper speed with huge choruses. It’s certainly catchy and I’m going to try to sum it up by suggesting it’s a direct cross between Pinkshinyultrablast and Eagulls.  There’s a grit and rock and roll energy to them that may scare off a few of Slowdive’s wallflowers but it’s for this very reason that this blitzkrieg lot may appeal to a wideaudience. Dare I say the Mission?….there are hints especially on ‘Colour /Blind’ and despite the wall of guitars all I can see in my head is a massive leather jacket. 


The Twilight Sad
Oran Mor Session

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

I went down to see the Twilight Sad when they played in acoustic style at Jumbo records a few months ago. To my surprise my brother was in the crowd and afterwards he informed me that although he really likes them he did have concerns that they were a bit...well...you know.... a bit too Scottish. There's no getting away from in, the Twilight Sad are Scottish men.

Their last album 'Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave' is the ultimate grower. It reveals it's wares not after one listen but after about seven - you have to give it time. This album is one of those pleasant but non-essential things bands do between real albums. It's a document of the Twilight Sad playing at Òran Mór a popular arts and entertainment spot in Glasgow. As with that Jumbo show they've stripped the songs back and reworked them in acoustic style. What this reveals is that beneath the noise and mayhem the band are fantastic songwriters. James Graham's lyrics are full of bleak twists and turns and it's great to be able to hear his words above where a din is usually placed. Played quietly the songs take on a particularly Caledonian type of melancholy and if I'm tempted to write Del Amitri at this point then I hope you know I'm not meaning it as a diss. 

Thing is, without the dynamics of the full band you just don't get the visceral thrill and the album passes by in a pleasant blur. Also other than a sweet cover of Arthur Russell's 'I Couldn't Say It To Your Face', long term fans will know all these songs off by heart so there's no real surprises. For the uninitiated, I'd start at one of their studio albums (they all have really long titles  - can I bother to type them? Ok then ...either 'Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave' or 'Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters' ) before delving into this acoustic side.

But on a quiet night, when you are in a hut by Loch Lomond with only a crackly fire for company these songs are going to sound beyond perfect. 

Celer & Machinefabriek

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

This is, as you might expect from the title, a compendium of the various 7” between the two ambient heavyweights. One of the 7”s is in fact still available from us making a mockery of my review where I erroneously claimed that “it will sell out promptly”.  To be fair this is music that works much better over the course of a CD, where you can put it on, lie back and drift off into another world. On these collaborations Celer’s soft evocative drifting is tempered (I presume  - I’m no expert) by Machinefabriek’s but scattergun approach with shards of found dialogue and field recordings cutting through the billowy drift.

Unlike many of these types of releases, the pieces are short (presumably to be 7” friendly) and very concise. You get seven original pieces then a series of remixes by the likes of Sylvain Chauveau, Nicolas Bernier and Stephan Mathieu.

Radical User Interfaces

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

Have CPU put a bad record out yet? If so I’ve yet to hear one. They really are the kings of decent underground electronica and hopefully these records will one day be as loved and sought after as the early Warp and Skam releases.

Here, Cygnus releases his fourth record on the label with a 12” of crisp beats, glistening synths and memorable melodies. As with most underground dance 12”s I’m having a hard time discerning the A side from the B side so let’s start with what I think is the title track. This is a very neat slab of electronics starting with some squelchy pulsating synths, carefully added slick beats and lovely melodies plonked on top. A real treat for fans of the late ’90’s/early 2000’s explosion in electronica.

There’s a slight funk element to some of this  - particularly on ’Nexus Telecoms’ with some big fat 80’s synth. I think I’m bang on with my A side/B side decision. ‘Arcade Killers‘ is just that - a shimmering burst of after school arcade electronics. The closing ‘Electronic Slave' is the nearest it gets to Kraftwerk with big bold synths picking out a retro melody.

Sunflower Bean
Show Me Your Seven Secrets

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

I had a dream last night that Laurence from Felt was in the Cocteau Twins. What on earth could have brought that on? Oh and he was a professional footballer too. This record sounds like the Cocteau Twins only because I’ve been playing it at the wrong speed.

Once you correct this it still has an ’80’s shoegaze vibe but is more in keeping with Spacemen 3. On ‘Someone Call me a Doctor’ The guitars are nicely flanged, the vocals are hazy and everything stays on the same chord throughout. ‘2013’ is pure drones psych with pulverising drumming and doom bass. They have a song called 'Tame Impala’, this is heavy psych with wild bass runs and super effected guitars. Occasionally they get more melodic and this is where I like them best - where they break out the jangling guitars and have the feel of the mid 80’s Dunedin scene. Those guitars are pure Chills.

So like the band Snapper, Sunflower Bean veer between 80’s style plangent pop and full on psych workouts. I know which one I like best but fans of Hookworms, the Cardinal Fuzz label and all things Liverpool psych fest may enjoy the other side of the band.

Jodie Landau / Wild Up
You Of All Things

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

I'm listening to this while watching highlights of York City vs Doncaster Rovers. So what’s the verdict? Well Doncaster looked to have most of the possession but York got the two all important goals. Oh and the music?  Well it’s complicated orchestral stuff with singing. It’s very arty and sophisticated and I’m the third reviewer to have attempted to write about this though I note that someone has thankfully blacked in Landau’s worryingly low cut top on the promo copy. So think about Antony and the Johnsons or the weirder bits off These New Puritans 'Field of Reeds’ then turn left into what you might think a chamber pop album produced by Valgeir Sigursson  might sound like.

It’s all twists and turns, choirboy like vocals and complicated arrangements. I can hear some late period Talk Talk, Michael Nyman and Nils Frahm. I don’t have a brain or a drawing room big enough to take in all the subtlety this offers but to my lumpen ears it’s far closer to classical arrangements than modern day composition. It’s so sophisticated that amongst all the clarinets, harps and vibraphones in the credits sits a vocal coach. Slaves this is not. 


Unbeknownst To The Participants At Hand

8 people love me. Be the 9th...

9/10 according to our Laurie

Drekka is somewhat of an experimental/ambient/sound art veteran by now. The common thread throughout the years has been the concept - rarely one to release a record ‘cos it sounds cool’, Drekka does things for a reason. A solid, lofty reason. Which is probably a better reason than most.

On this latest, the mysteriously-titled Unbeknownst To The Participants At Hand, Drekka takes people from his past, who he may or may not remember, and makes them the focal point, burying them in industrial ambience and static-drowned drones. Vocalesque textures mimic saxophones and ancient war-horns, echoing the ambiguity of memory and the weird malformed people, events and feelings that the brain dredges up after a few red wines or during a long sleep. Some clanks sound a brutal metallic rattle across the second half - something is crumbling.

Things get really excruciating on side B, with grating sounds stretched out to breaking point, threatening to shatter along with your sanity. Hints of melody edge in, just as foreboding as the rest but far more brief. This side is full of the electroacoustic mind-warp of Lumisokea and the industrial leanings of Coil, finishing this with a really unsettling tone. Help.

Armando Sciascia
Sea Fantasy

8 people love me. Be the 9th...

8/10 according to our Laurie

What’s your fantasy? Take a moment and transplant yourself into that mindspace of desire. Wait, don’t get too carried away - STOP! Jeez, people are predictable. If that area was populated by merpeople joyously swimming around a submerged Paris, then stop reading this and buy this record. Else, read on.

A glance over the rear of the cover sets the whole tone perfectly - a hilariously brilliant excerpt reads ‘Ah! To remain this way, motionless forever, to gaze beyond the horizon, beyond time, beyond the depths of the watery bed!’. You know what you’re in for here, grandiose 70s theatrics from a forgotten concept album. One side of the sound encompasses traditional french street-corner accordion songs played on acoustic/electric guitars and synths, very tightly orchestrated and delightfully cheesy. This must be the peaceful scene before the imaginary peril. When that comes, we enter the dissonant, enchanting territory of more impressionistic contemporary classical, played on harps for xtra mystery. If you’re into that Planet Sauvage thing by Alain Goraguer, as well as general nostalgia music which is omnipresent these days, you’ll probably be into this.

‘It’s more like a '60's Bond soundtrack, that’ - Ian ‘Clown’ Norman.

This Side Of Paradise

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

7/10 according to our Laurie

It’s 2nd album time for Coma, a duo of smooth, emotional beatmakers hailing from Cologne. Our Ian loved this, remarking that it’s a brighter shift for Kompakt, away from their usual “minimal and dark” stuff. Well there’s a view from someone in the know.

Not sure about Kompakt’s recent history myself, but this is definitely bright, the majority being chill house-tinged electronic that reminds of the club but could never realistically be played there. It sort of sounds like the morning, like waking up and throwing open the curtains in a fit of exuberant inspiration. Production-wise, there’s plenty to entertain - shifting stereo shakers drift about, tiny bells and succinct snares get shoved into the spotlight, and vocal chops shift between transparent and synth-glossed. I’m a bit tired of vocal treatments like this, but it’s house-y and there are rules. The rule of the genre, a tyrannical and restrictive rule, but a stable one. Sort of like Cameron’s Britain.

That’s not a dig at this though, god forbid, this one’s shortcomings lie elsewhere. The chordal and melodic movements are decidedly predictable - a typical symptom of this “at home and in the club” electronic music. Why? Again, the rule of the genre. Always use the standard minor key in house-driven electronic, it’s the only way to convey emotion, right? Wrong. So wrong. Anyway rant over, the flipside of that is that their beat patterns shift constantly over the course of the album, never content to sit with 4x4 or 2-step or whatever.

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Timestamp: Wednesday 14th October, 04:58:19