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Dec. 3rd, 2016

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Ballad of Jim Jones

Is this the definitive Brian Jonestown Massacre song? Possibly. Ballad of Jim Jones is explicitly about surviving cults and similar belief structures. It's played in a total '60s Dylan style with mouth organ and strummed guitar, but with the volume turned all the way up to 11. There's so much treble that it starts to sound abrasive, each hit on the strings sounding like the crash of a cymbal. Guitars are vulnerable people, you know. From the 1996 album Thank God For Mental Illness.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Ballad of Jim Jones
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Dec. 2nd, 2016

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Dictaphone - Au Botanique

Moody jazz noir with glitch electronics: Dictaphone are the duo of Roger Döring (woodwinds) and Oliver Doerell (everything else). I love the tightly wound fernhead sounds of Au Botanique, and the way they spiral out into spacious grooves. A masterpiece of control from their 2012 album Poems From A Rooftop.

Dictaphone - Au Botanique
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Dec. 1st, 2016

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Jeroen Uyttendaele - La Promenade Monolith (fragment)

Here's a recording of a sound art installation by the Belgian artist Jeroen Uyttendaele. He's probably best known for Ground, his collaboration with Dewi de Vree. In that piece the two draw diagrams on large sheets of paper with graphite and then use them as electrical circuits which can be played with a pair of pickups.

La Promenade Monolith is a set of six large metal plates that face each other in pairs. Each is powered by a speaker, and acts as both transmitter and receiver, both resonating and acting as a crude microphone to pass the signal on in a series of feedback loops. Left on its own the work doesn't do much, but it really comes alive when it has an audience, incorporating their footsteps and physical presence as baffles into its ever circulating patterns of sound.

Jeroen Uyttendaele - La Promenade Monolith (fragment)
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Nov. 30th, 2016

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Doug Anthony All Stars - I Fuck Dogs

The Doug Anthony All Stars were an Australian musical comedy trio who abused and delighted audiences in the late '80s and early '90s. Don't know how well they're remembered these days, but I suspect that I Fuck Dogs will always find itself on a playlist somewhere. No subtext here, it's just a song about the merits of having sex with dogs in the park. Apparently it's not without its problems, but the compensations seem to be worth it. From the 1994 live album Dead and Alive.

Doug Anthony All Stars - I Fuck Dogs
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Nov. 29th, 2016

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Black Randy and the Metrosquad - (Say It Loud) I'm Black and I'm Proud (Part 1)

Cracking bit of funk here. Black Randy was part of the LA punk scene in the '70s and one hell of a prankster. Offence is a difficult trick to pull off well. It's easy to appear a humourless idiot or a cocksure wanker, but he turned being offensive into an art. Part of the reason for this cover was surely because it's a great song, but you know part of it had to be to wind up audiences with a bit of discofied strut. And long before diss tracks were a thing he calls out The Clash, The Pistols, The Ramones, Patti Smith and James Brown himself.

Black Randy and the Metrosquad - (Say It Loud) I'm Black and I'm Proud (Part 1)
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Nov. 28th, 2016

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Half Japanese - That's Right

You know, it may be true that this is no time for optimism. It is no time for our better selves, no time for hope. The times are ugly and the discourse nothing short of repulsive. Yet there's got to be something better, something to strive towards, something positive. For all the goofy earnestness and outsider tunes, few records have been as unrelentingly positive as Perfect, the 2016 release from brothers Jad and David Fair.

And damn, but That's Right will make your heart swell. The music is Sergeant Pepper by way of Quasi, and the song is nothing but the best of people. It might be stupid, it might be naive, it might be misguided, but staying in the cold hard cell of despair will never achieve a fucking thing and I'd rather take a chance on connecting than rot away and leave the world to the bastards. This is beautiful, and other things can be too.

Half Japanese - That's Right
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Nov. 27th, 2016

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Tyvek - Real Estate & Finance

Here is my favourite of the catchy songs from Tyvek's new album Origin of What. It is not all catchy songs, of course. The ever-rotating lineup of Detroit punks are far too restless for that. The title track is an epic dirge and elsewhere they get as lo-fi as they've ever been. But Real Estate & Finance has a brightness to it, an invigorating lift. Some music is heavy and beats you down, this is the opposite. It carries you and it's a joy.

Tyvek - Real Estate & Finance
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Nov. 26th, 2016

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Helved Rüm - Helved Rüm

Helved Rüm are a Parisian electroacoustic improv duo consisting of Julien Chamla (drums) and Simon Henocq (electronics). Chamla likes to skitter across his instruments, bouncing and clattering chaotically. It's a very distinctive and, in its raw state, very dry sound. But it's when Henocq starts cooking that things get really interesting. Using live spectral processing he draws from the percussion to create scraping feedback and roars of gritty intensity. They can create a racket equal to anything by the classic noise rock duos, but this eponymous track is rather more restrained and creates space for a variety of sonic textures. Certainly not for everyone, though. Find this one on their free self-titled Bandcamp release from 2012.

Helved Rüm - Helved Rüm
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Nov. 25th, 2016

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Martin Creed - Pass Them On

I love the way Martin Creed takes naive indie pop music and turns it into something really uncomfortable. If it were to follow the rules, Pass Them On would be a song about mutual support and friendship but it's anything but. It's strident and unpleasant, and its jerky outsider rhythms twist the expected message into something entirely mercenary. A terrific little subversion from his 2014 album Mind Trap.

Martin Creed - Pass Them On
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Nov. 24th, 2016

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Blueblut - Fuckhead Toothbrush

Blueblut are the Austrian trio of theremin virtuoso Pamelia Stickney, drummer Mark Holub (also of Led Bib) and guitarist Chris Janka. And I'll admit it, I saw the name of the song and thought, "How could I not?" But Fuckhead Toothbrush is more than just its title. It starts like King Crimson circa 1980, and then seems as if it's going to morph into something with rather more camp and horrorshowy. But the sound keeps layering and layering and building in intensity until it blossoms into something far more original, wandering like a lost interstellar probe. Noise/jazz/rock lovers shouldn't miss this one. Find it on their 2014 album Hurts So Gut.

Blueblut - Fuckhead Toothbrush
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Nov. 23rd, 2016

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Minami Deutsch - Futsu Ni Ikirenai

Really odd use of the motorik beat here by Japanese outfit Minami Deutsch. It sounds at first like old school krautrock, but listen long enough and the snare drum will do your fucking head in. It's as metronomic as the genre demands, but it's so far away from the beat that Futsu Ni Ikirenai sounds like a bicycle with square wheels. Eventually the clean guitar tones invert on themselves and maximal fuzz takes over, but that snare never settles elsewhere. Confounding.

Minami Deutsch - Futsu Ni Ikirenai
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Nov. 22nd, 2016

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Santo & Johnny - Sleep Walk

More old school rock and roll for you, but with a difference. The narcotised steel guitar of Sleep Walk sounds as if it had been invented for some hauntological past rather than coming from the real 1959. But it's all too real. Santo and Johnny Farina were two brothers from Brooklyn, and the sanitised superreality of their music is at once nostalgic and deeply unsettling. It's impossible to listen to this without imagining it gliching out and the dystopian world behind suddenly revealing itself.

Santo & Johnny - Sleep Walk
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Nov. 21st, 2016

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Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five - Caldonia

There's a cover version of Louis Jordan's 1945 hit Caldonia that is sometimes reckoned to be the first rock'n'roll song. I don't think anyone's ever made that claim for the original; Jordan was always too self-consciously goofy for anyone to want to write him into the history books. But if you like nonsense swing and jump blues pop of that era, Caldonia is still a cracking song. For me what makes it is the brief exchange between Jordan on tenor sax and his trumpet player - sure it's raucous and silly, but the offbeat rhythmic monomania is punk as fuck.

Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five - Caldonia
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Nov. 20th, 2016

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Jorge Macchi - Caja de música

Jorge Macchi is an Argentinian artist, and Caja de música (Musical box) is a short video piece he created in 2003. It shows cars driving towards the camera on a multi-lane road. As they pass a single note plays, as if each car was a tooth on the reel of a musical box. It's a brilliant premise for a piece of aleatory music, and I'd love it if we could set something up like that which could work in real time. Optical recognition has moved on considerably since then and it should be possible to hack the output of a few motorway cameras into a midi driver. If we're going to have to live under mass surveillance we might as well turn it into art. And the possibilities for protest convoys co-ordinating to create seditious tunes is just an added bonus.

Jorge Macchi - Caja de música
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Nov. 19th, 2016

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Stirrup - Rodney's Last Ride

More new jazz, this time from the trio of Fred Lonberg-Holm, Nick Macri and Charles Rumback. Macri and Rumback play bass and drums, but the sound is dominated by the electric cello of Lonberg-Holm. This may be a good thing or a very bad thing depending on your taste; some people cannot stand the instrument. But to be able to flit between full-throated howl and rough snagging is a pretty neat trick. And when, as on Rodney's Last Ride, Lanberg-Holm also brings out his electronics to spit static and radio interference patterns all over the groove then you're starting to listen to something rather special. Feedback seldom danced better.

Stirrup - Rodney's Last Ride
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Nov. 18th, 2016

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Sarathy Korwar - Bismillah

Here's the transcontinental sound of 2016 for you. It starts with African emigrants who made a new home in Gujarat. Their descendants kept their culture alive in the form of music, sometimes singing in a Swahili they no longer understood. Sarathy Korwar is an Indian percussionist who recorded The Sidi Troupe of Ratanpur and took those tapes to London to make his 2016 album Day To Day. It's a great record, mixing that original folk music with spiritual jazz and the sort of contemporary production techniques that are becoming a hallmark of the current UK scene.

Bismillah highlights the polyrhythms of Siddi music against some nostalgically astral jazz meanderings before sliding into something infinitely more funky. Sax is provided by the ever excellent Shabaka Hutchings playing off Korwar's busy and ever-insistent bed. Genuinely great new music.

Sarathy Korwar - Bismillah
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Nov. 17th, 2016

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Monks - I Hate You

One of the greatest rock and roll records of all time was made by five former US servicemen after being demobbed in West Germany. It was the 1966 release Black Monk Time. The Monks wore black, shaved tonsures into their heads, and played bassy, rhythmic, amelodic songs full of drones and feedback. There was no art to their art, they simply thought it was a great sound. And of course it is! What could be better than ground organ, offbeat banjo, and the crazed desperation of Gary's vocals? The Fall were to cover this years later as Black Monk Theme, and while that is brilliant this is the wellspring. It's a cultural rhizome.

Monks - I Hate You
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Nov. 16th, 2016

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Etat Brut - Pôles du cerveau

Lovers of vintage industrial electronic noise will find much to enjoy in this. Pôles du cerveau comes from the 1982 cassette Géométrie d'un assassinat, and it's a pretty rich and satisfying mattress of fucked up sonic textures. Etat Brut were Belgian, so I'm not entirely sure what's going on here vocally, though it certainly sounds like the sort of magickal invocation that you might have heard from TG/PTV around that time. Mostly though is this just a great bag of aural trickery. Wonderfully inventive.

Etat Brut - Pôles du cerveau
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Nov. 15th, 2016

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Max Richter - Erik Sleeping

Do something simple but brilliant. Great advice of course, about as useful as a suet trombone. For his part in the compilation album Erik Satie et les Nouveaux Jaunes, Max Richter took Gnossienne no.1, recorded himself playing it backwards, and then played that tape in reverse. The result is a piece that sounds as if it were made underwater, the massive weight of the existing sound being pushed slowly away to create space for the melody. Quite marvellous.

Max Richter - Erik Sleeping
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Nov. 14th, 2016

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Not Waving - 24

Not Waving is the solo project of Alessio Natalizia, and you could be forgiven for not noticing that 24 is techno. There's so much quality noise going on here that although that beat is there, it's seldom what you're feeling. An abrasive howl, a tortured snare, radio static and interference all glide across the soundscape. It reminds me of the experimental electronics coming out of New York and Sheffield in the late '70s and early '80s. Top threshold music from the 2016 album Animals.

Not Waving - 24
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