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May. 25th, 2017

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Linda Perhacs - Chimacum Rain

Chimacum Rain is a rather precious and pretty flower child folksong from Linda Perhacs' 1970 album Parallelograms. That would probably be all you need to know about it, except for the fact that it's got some of the extraordinary production I've ever heard. It's all about the backing vocals, which at times suddenly swell like a big TV production number and sometimes full-on pagan sinister. There's nothing quite like this.

Linda Perhacs - Chimacum Rain
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May. 24th, 2017

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Arnold Dreyblatt & the Orchestra of Excited Strings - Bowing

Arnold Dreyblatt wrote music in the same tradition as Rhys Chatham or Glenn Branca: 2nd generation American Minimalism. But rather than drawing from Glass and Reich, Dreyblatt seems to draw a line back to that most mystical of the early minimalists, Charlemagne Palestine. For Dreyblatt it's less about the emergent rhythmic interplay and more the harmonic effect of massive layering of sounds. Bowing, from the 1986 release Propellers in Love, really is the sound of those excited strings: high tensile sounds testing the physical limits of both players and instruments. With its rapid repetition of notes it is music that sounds as if it will snap at any moment, and the just intonation tuning only adds more of a sense of this being music right on the edge.

Arnold Dreyblatt & the Orchestra of Excited Strings - Bowing
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May. 23rd, 2017

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Abul Mogard - Slate-Coloured Storm

According to his official biography, Abul Mogard spent his working life on a production line in a factory in Belgrade, Serbia. On retiring, he realised that he missed the mechanical and industrial sounds that he had lived with, so turned to electronic music to try to fill the hole that the silence had made. Forgive me if I'm a little suspicious of this.

Still, whoever is behind the name this is some fine music. Think ambient drone, but with the frequency window wide open. Think vintage instruments, their sounds coated in a patina of age. Think huge sonic canvasses with a sense of melancholy to match. Genuinely emotionally affecting, definitely recommended. Slate-Coloured Storm comes from the 2015 12" Circular Forms.

Abul Mogard - Slate-Coloured Storm
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May. 22nd, 2017

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Defibrillator & Peter Brötzmann - Anthropozoophilia

Peter Brötzmann is 76. Has he slowed down or mellowed with age? Absolutely fucking not. Anthropozoophilia comes from an album he released last year with the Swiss experimental trio Defibrillator. Conversations About Not Eating Meat featured his raucous tenor paired with the drums of Oliver Steidle, the electronics of Artur Smolyn, and the e-trombone of Sebastian Smolyn.

I'll wait while you Google that.

No, me neither.

Anyway, imagine if you had a band who liked making avant-noise experimental music with some of the sonic properties of rock, but one of them was a bellowing cow. I know I'd want to hear more by them, wouldn't you? Powerfully strange, and strangely powerful.

Defibrillator & Peter Brötzmann - Anthropozoophilia
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May. 21st, 2017

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Piranha Man - Eye Of The Tiger

And sometimes, we listen just to laugh. There's outsider music that is magical and amazing, like the Langley Schools project or the Space Lady, and there's outsider music that is the listening equivalent of the travelling circus freak show. Piranha Man, I'm afraid to say, is definitely in the latter category.

A few years ago a bunch of recordings of an guy with a heavy Pakistani accent singing karaoke songs emerged. His phrasing and timing was eccentric at best. It was as if he'd heard the song for the first time just a few minutes ago, but was going to sing it anyway. I always suspected that Piranha Man knew he was the butt of the joke, but didn't particularly care. He just liked the attention and making people laugh, and there's nothing wrong with that. Here's his version of Eye of the Tiger, and you've never known the thrill of the fight like it.

Piranha Man - Eye Of The Tiger
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May. 20th, 2017

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Rashad Becker - Themes V

For years, Rashad Becker has been syphoning the money from the wallets of vinyl aficionados in his day job of engineering fine techno records at the Dubplates & Mastering studio in Berlin. He's really got that whole artisanal seal of approval thing going for him where people will buy records not because of who made the music, but because of who made the product. There hasn't been a sound engineer like him since George "Porky Prime Cut" Peckham.

I recently got to hear his album Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol II (2016) and it's remarkable stuff. He's completely awake to the raw and radical possibilities of electronic sound, and his music sounds as fresh and original as anything ever did by pioneers such as Milton Babbit or Delia Derbyshire. Listening to Themes V is like uncovering an alien musical language and trying to unpick its meaning from a handful of sonic clues. Absolutely my sort of thing.

Rashad Becker - Themes V
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May. 19th, 2017

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DarkMatterHalo - Glyph

I know nothing about DarkMatterHalo except that it features at two electric guitarists, Doug Wieselman who plays with Antony and the Johnsons, and Brandon Ross who appears to be a forward-thinking kind of motherfucker. Their Soundcloud page also lists sound design as being by "Hardedge", which I think might be an alias for Velibor Pedevski. They play dark ambient nu-jazz, which doesn't sound that appealing, and at times their music can be a bit on the murky side. But tracks like Glyph from their 2016 release Cataclysmic Beauty have such killer emergent rhythms that it's difficult to not be seduced. There's an odd '80s vibe to it, reminiscent of some of Bobby Previte's work from that era, or maybe a bit of Adrian Belew. Definitely worth your time.

DarkMatterHalo - Glyph
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May. 18th, 2017

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David Bowie - Tired of My Life

I grew up with David Bowie in my ears. Two of the earliest songs I can remember hearing were Jean Genie and Suffragette City, and even today I reckon I could sit down and sing my way through the entirety of the Scary Monsters album word perfect. So it comes as a pleasant surprise to discover this 1970 demo recording of Tired Of My Life, the song that would go on to become It's No Game. To be honest, this is a rather plain and dreary little thing, with none of the savage sonic invention of the song it turned into, but the melody is still there. Maybe it'll fill in a few of the pieces for some of you too.

David Bowie - Tired of My Life
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May. 16th, 2017

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Richie Havens - High Flyin' Bird

Listening back, there were a few brief years towards the end of the 1960s when you couldn't tell what genre music was any more. Folk had turned into blues and jazz and then to soul, and yet somehow they were all coexisting in the music. Take this version of High Flyin' Bird, from Richie Havens' 1968 album Mixed Bag. It's got the amazing double time syncopated rhythm guitar that he used to such effect for his performance at Woodstock, electric blues bass and jazz guitar licks from session man Howard Collins. At first it's dense and confusing, but that's only until the long form rhythmic structure starts to reveal itself, and then it's a joy. It's not music that's ever going to sit easily in the historical retelling, too awkward and out of place for the narratives we impose on the past. You'll have to do your own part to keep things like this alive.

Richie Havens - High Flyin' Bird
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May. 15th, 2017

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Damon Edge - When The Hall Cries

This right here, this may be the single most '80s song ever recorded. Damon Creed is best known for his music with Chrome, but between '85 and '87 released a handful of solo records. This is one of his b-sides, and it's exactly as full of fractured and yawning Fripp-influenced guitar as you could ever want. Edge's vocal has that deadpan bleakness that only the truly theatrical would ever attempt. Preposterous and overblown but rather wonderful.

Damon Edge - When The Hall Cries
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May. 14th, 2017

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Matthew's Celebrity Pixies Covers - Wave Of Mutilation

Dear readers, do you remember the time before the Pixies reformed? They were happy magical times when we could all remember how the band as midwives of post-rock, rather than a showbiz act. Back then the idea of sleb cover versions of classic pixies songs was outlandish, now it just seems inevitable. Even so, there's still fun to be found in Matthew's Celebrity Pixies Covers.

I don't know who Matthew is, nor his muso chums, but their series of Pixies covers delighted listeners back in 2006. Did you want to hear Levitate Me as sung by the Beach Boys, or maybe Hendrix's take on Vamos? Matthew brought you the goods. And here's one of the best, Wave Of Mutilation through the lazy MOR disco lens of the Bee Gees. It's so muted and bland you could almost believe it was real.

Matthew's Celebrity Pixies Covers - Wave Of Mutilation
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May. 13th, 2017

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Xylouris White - Forging

How are you with duos? I'm going to assume that you're down with Lightning Bolt and 75 Dollar Bill, but have you heard any Xylouris White? The duo of lutenist George Xylouris and Dirty Three drummer Jim White are a welcome sight for those of us who mourn the lack of visibility of hairy middle aged men in avant rock. They look more like they should be teaching applied Marxist economics than cutting groundbreaking new music, but that's what they're doing with the introduction of traditional Greek influences and freely extensible meters. I've never heard the lute used so effectively as a rock instrument as I have on Forging, taken from their 2016 release Black Peak. Check it out.

Xylouris White - Forging
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May. 12th, 2017

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Daniel Schmidt - And The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn

People say that a lot, don't they? The business about the darkest hour, I mean. It's fine as metaphors go, but I've stayed up all night enough times to be able to tell you it's fanciful nonsense. Your eyes have had all night to adjust to the lowered light levels, and even if they hadn't atmospheric diffraction means that the hour before dawn actually gets a bit of the dawn light. At these latitudes, anyway. It's probably a different experience if you're closer to the equator.

Am I taking this too seriously? Well yes, obviously I am, but then so is And The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn the lead track from Daniel Schmidt's 2016 release In My Arms, Many Flowers. Schmidt makes and composes for gamelan, and it's clear that his approach is rather new age; music as meditation. Rather too much for me, most of the time at least. And as easy as it is to mock there's no getting away from the fact that this music is sublime. Performed by the Berkeley Gamelan, it's beautifully sonorous and melancholy - none of your chattering monkeys gamelan here. It's slow and deliberate, gradually revealing itself, and never committing the mistake of being obvious. But what I love most is the strange harmonics that you would never get with other instruments, tiny intonation artefacts that speak of the the individual natures of the elements of the orchestra. Do give this one a chance, I know I'm grateful that I did.

Daniel Schmidt - And The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn
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May. 11th, 2017

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Colin Stetson - Spindrift

So have you heard the new Colin Stetson album yet? After a few unsatisfying releases, with All This I Do For Glory he's right back at the top of his game. Spindrift is partly familiar territory for him, built around shimmering, tremulous upper register arpeggio playing. His vocalising though his sax has a new softness to it, wistful and liturgical. And then, just when you think you've understood Stetson's new take on holy minimalism, the low thud of a techno bass drum beat joins the mix. It's a brilliant moment in a gorgeous piece.

Colin Stetson - Spindrift
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May. 10th, 2017

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Sarathy Korwar - Mawra

Here's another number from Sarathy Korwar's masterful 2016 release Day To Day. Mawra is the album's closer, a track that joins together the unmistakable bass clarinet of Shabaka Hutchings, Korwar's loose and expansive drumming, and the astonishing sampled sounds of the African/Indian Sidi Sufis. If you give a damn about modern creative music, jazz, or positive internationalism then this is the shit you should really be mainlining.

Sarathy Korwar - Mawra
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May. 9th, 2017

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Thomas Lehn & Frédéric Blondy - obdo pt. 1

A bit of electroacoustic improv for you today. Blondy's piano is patched into the Lehn's synth, and the results are mixed in real time in this live performance. While there's plenty still to be done with conventional playing in this this field, this is a real no limits collaboration, and I think it really works. Blondy plays as much with scraping the strings or hammering the case as he does with the keyboard, and this gives a great palette for manipulation. Obdo starts with a comfortable ambience of creaks and percussive flurries, but really works on ratcheting up the tension as it builds. Very satisfying indeed, from the 2008 release obdo.

Thomas Lehn & Frédéric Blondy - obdo pt. 1
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May. 8th, 2017

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Big Black - L Dopa

In retrospect, the songs of Big Black were full of incoherent dream logic masquerading as unsentimental realism. Few people did punk better though, and L Dopa is one of their songs I'll happily return to. Those drum machine rhythms are so totally non-idiomatic, they derail and uproot the song and make sure it keeps changing direction. Fast, aggressive driving, from the band's final album, the classic Songs About Fucking (1987).

Big Black - L Dopa
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May. 7th, 2017

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Monster Rally - The Big Surf

The Big Surf is chillwave exploitica from Ted Feighan, aka Monster Rally. Part Pacific ukulele, part Sailing By, and part cheesy cod-orientalism. This sort of thing shouldn't work, but it's got a certain charm, and the way that some of the loops sound like stuck vinyl is an added bonus. From the 2016 release Mystery Cove.

Monster Rally - The Big Surf
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May. 6th, 2017

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Marisa Anderson - The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

Marisa Anderson's been on my radar since I first heard her in Jefrey Brown's Evolutionary Jass Band. She's a guitarist with a strong experimental side, as can be heard here on her version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic from her 2013 album Traditional and Public Domain Songs. Imagine if Bill Orcutt played lap steel: she excavates a space around the melody and fills it with quavering sustain. It's like listening through a sloshing tank of water. Love the way she rounds things off with some retro rock and roll and surf idioms, too. Deep playing.

Marisa Anderson - The Battle Hymn Of The Republic
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May. 5th, 2017

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Tristan Perich - Certain Movement

When we think of the simplest of all waveforms, and thus the simplest of sounds, we normally think of the sine wave. There's good reason for this. It's the idealised version of mechanical systems we see in strings and pipes, it's a sound that's indelibly tied to the physics of our natural world. But there's another basic waveform that's just as fundamental, and one much more tied to our digital world, and that's the square wave. It's either at rest, or at full voltage, off or on, 0 or 1. It's a truly binary sound, and one that Tristan Perich investigated in his 2008 release 1-Bit Music.

It's debatable as to whether 1-Bit Music is actually a record or not. It comes in a CD case but contains no recorded sound. Rather it's a battery, a few wires, a headphone jack and a chip. Plug your phones in to listen and the music is generated anew every single time. It's native digital art.

Here's the opening track, the infectious and insistent Certain Movement. Shorn of the ability to use timbral or dynamic changes, it's all about the rhythm and the pitch. Perich makes the most of this restriction with some incredible syncopation that's all the more impressive because of the necessary crudity of the sound. If you can get past the fact that this sounds like it's being played on a single piezoelectric speaker, I think you're going to love it.

Tristan Perich - Certain Movement
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