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Jan. 20th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Merzbow - Promotion Man

You think you know Merzbow, and then you hear Promotion Man.

I'll admit, my knowledge of the music of Masami Akita is hardly encyclopaedic, but everything I'd heard had led me to expect more of the same: harsh unrelenting noise. What I wasn't expecting were sampled rhythms, albeit distorted ones. I wasn't expecting interplay between the drum sounds and the electronics. I wasn't expecting the suggested melodic content. But that's what you get for not taking the opening track of Merzbeat (2003) at face value. Not inconsiderable fun.

Merzbow - Promotion Man
(alt)

Jan. 19th, 2018

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Blyth Power - Goodbye To All That

There aren't many songs in the historical literary folk punk subgenre, and I suspect all of them may have been performed by Blyth Power. Here's one such from the band's second album, The Barman and Other Stories (1988). The sound is tinny and the lyrics rather oblique, but this biographical portrait of Robert Graves packs an immense emotional wallop. Sometime the written history is so false, such brazen propaganda, that it must be denied. How do you find yourself again after you've destroyed those foundations? There never was a band so concerned with the long arm of culture as Blyth Power, and this is one of their finest.

Blyth Power - Goodbye To All That
(alt)

Jan. 18th, 2018

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Kazumoto Endo - Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

Well this seems all rather unlikely. Who would have expected a harsh noise version of a chart topping Abba song? Then again, if you've paid attention to Kazumoto Endo over the years, this suddenly doesn't seem quite so unlikely. He's always approached his noiseworks if not with a pop sensibility, then at least with a light touch. There's no reason something shouldn't sound like pitch shifted screaming weasels and also be fun. That's what creativity is for.

And there's no doubt that Endo has consistently been one of the most creative noise musicians over the years. He's always shied away from padding his discography. His cover of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! comes from the compilation Masters of the Scene - The Definitive ABBA Tribute (2003), Abba songs as rendered by experimental musicians. The only other name I recognise on there is irr. app. (ext.), so we're probably not talking the most commercial of releases here. But Endo's take on the song is unalloyed genius - if you've ever thought that noise was just a monolithic wall of sound, you need to give this a listen. Ever single instance of the riff is different: by turns it's tense, silly, magnificent, audacious, painful, but the adherence to the disco beat never wavers. So many liberties taken, so worth it.

Kazumoto Endo - Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
(alt)

Jan. 17th, 2018

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Fred Frith - Norrgarden Nyvla

Norrgarden Nyvla is an oddly quaint and delightful track from Fred Frith's solo album Gravity (1980). Henry Cow had been and gone, and Frith was now working with songs as part of the Art Bears. Today's track has some of that renewed melodic interest, but it's very much a dance piece, although anything but a contemporary one. Rather it sounds like some kind of very formal 17th century number - I want to say a gavotte, but don't take my word on that, and beside it sounds like there's all sorts of metrical tricks going on here. It's just a great tune.

The album version runs straight into Year of the Monkey, this edit loses a few seconds at the end to fade out to avoid an abrupt finish. It works much better as a standalone track this way.

Fred Frith - Norrgarden Nyvla
(alt)

Jan. 16th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Soft Machine - The Soft Weed Factor

I used to be such a snob about Soft Machine. The only real Soft Machine albums were the first two, with an honourable pass given to the various compilations of early demos. Perhaps Moon In June from the third album counted too. It depended how charitable I was feeling at the time. Certainly nothing from the post-Robert Wyatt era counted at all. That would be like the Velvets carrying on without Lou Reed.

But of course they did, and as far as I'm aware, there's still a version of Soft Machine even today, many generations removed from Mike Ratledge, Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, and Robert Wyatt. In retrospect the lineup from their sixth album is positively authentic.

Spurious notions of etc. etc. aside, this track from that album is actually rather wonderful. The Soft Weed Factor, written by oboist Karl Jenkins, is an extended minimalist jaunt in classic Terry Riley style. Crossing keyboard patterns weave a hypnotic tapestry until they finally unlock the jazz fusion rhythms hidden within, and from thereon in while there might not be any musical surprises it's still time well spent. Maybe not what my younger self would have wanted, but screw that guy.

Soft Machine - The Soft Weed Factor
(alt)

Jan. 15th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Oiseaux-Tempête - Baalshamin

Oh hell yes, this is the post-rock I wanted. The Paris-based collective Oiseaux-Tempête eschew the typical soundscapes of western decay for something rather less indulgent. It works particularly well on Baalshamin from their 2017 release Al-'An! الآن, when the familiar guitars are placed aside for an awe-inspiring collaboration between saxophones and analogue synth. Sinister windswept magnificence that uses middle-Eastern musical elements without succumbing to orientalism.

Oiseaux-Tempête - Baalshamin
(alt)

Jan. 14th, 2018

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Gazelle Twin - See How They Run

Today's track is a genuinely startling sonic experiment from Elizabeth Bernholz. It's from her 2017 release Kingdom Come, an album inspired by the chilling JG Ballard book on British ethno-fascism and consumerism. So cheery tunes all round then. See How They Run is full of sinister hollow pounding, out-of-body voices and warning sirens: industrial rumblings with a decidedly contemporary classical feel to them at times. Utterly dehumanised and compelling.

Gazelle Twin - See How They Run
(alt)

Jan. 13th, 2018

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Posse - Dream Sequence

I'm unlikely to ever recommend much indie rock to you, but I'm really taken by this track from Posse's 2017 release Horse Blanket. There's a relaxed simplicity to it that starts off kosmiche but by the end has become quite hypnotic, and in the process has carried the weight of everyday melancholy over the song. It's all done without show, without pretence. Sacha Maxim and her band are not prone to emotional gurning. Dream Sequence is filled with a beauty that can only be created when all ego has been discarded. Music from a state of grace.

Posse - Dream Sequence
(alt)

Jan. 12th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Tim Heidecker - Richard Spencer

Tim Heidecker's a funny guy. Not many laughs on this nostalgic folk/rock ballad from his 2017 album of songs, Too Dumb For Suicide, but seeing as how it's about the benefits of punching fascists I think the guy is owed a break. Strictly speaking it's actually just about punching Richard Spencer, but I don't see any practical reason why the practice shouldn't be extended a bit more widely. He's only got the one face and there are awful lot of fists that need to land somewhere. But is it funnier if several million people all get to hit Spencer? Yes. Yes it is. Pepe badge wearing motherfucker.

Tim Heidecker - Richard Spencer
(alt)

Jan. 11th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Hawkwind - Silver Machine

I've always loved Hawkwind. Can't help it. Nobody ever did the whole bunch of hairy rockers smelling of patchouli and dope act as well as they did. They were the original and best. Silver Machine is the keystone of their musical legacy, for a number of reasons.

  • They recorded it So. Many. Times. There's a particularly great live version that lasts for less than a minute before ending in an explosion.
  • The words can be sung to nearly half of all their tunes.
  • Bob Calvert actually wrote the song about his bicycle as a nod to Alfred Jarry, a fact absolutely no-one has ever worked out just by listening to it. Seriously, who would know?

    Anyway, here's the original, with vocals by Lemmy before he went all gravel throated on us. Sure I mock, but only because the song can take anything I can throw at it. We all know it's the best really.

    Hawkwind - Silver Machine
    (alt)
  • Jan. 10th, 2018

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    Irreversible Entanglements - Fireworks

    Harking back to the liberation jazz of Charlie Haden or the New York Art Quartet, Irreversible Entanglements' self-titled debut was one of the jazz discs of 2017. Most of the quintet were previously unknown to me, but Tcheser Holmes (drums), Aquiles Navarro (trumpet), Keir Neuringer (alto) and Luke Stewart (double bass) make a fiery and passionate noise. But without doubt it's the poetry of Camae Ayewa (AKA Moor Mother) which has brought this music to a wider audience.

    The band were formed directly in response to one of the USA's extrajudicial killings, that of Akai Gurley who was shot by police in a stairwell in Brooklyn in 2015. Ironically, it was one of the few cases where the police officer responsible would go on to be successfully prosecuted. Ironically, because the officer in question was Chinese-American.

    Fireworks isn't just stellar free jazz, it also places current political reality in a historic setting. Don't let this slip under your radar.

    Irreversible Entanglements - Fireworks
    (alt)

    Jan. 9th, 2018

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    Jerohme Spye - Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)

    Are netlabels still a thing that people pay attention to? People's internet experiences seem to be becoming more and more centralised these days, sticking to central hubs instead of the freeform processes of discovery that earned the description websurfing. It's hard to see them surviving in this new kind of attention economy (or blogs, but we'll pretend otherwise).

    Hippocamp was an adventurous netlabel, but even they never gave formal release to their most infamous project, Hippocamp Ruins Pet Sounds (2005). A bunch of bedroom musicians came together to give their own interpretations of various tracks from Pet Sounds, ruining them in the process. That's the official take anyway, but seeing as how I cannot stand the fucking Beach Boys just about anything would be an improvement.

    That said, Jerohme Spye's glitchy breakbeat take on Don't Talk isn't bad at all. At times it's ghostly, at times it's in terminal mechanical breakdown, but it always has a sense of discordant unease. If hypnagogic pop and vaporwave had taken a few cues from this perhaps it wouldn't have been such dreary bollocks.

    Jerohme Spye - Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
    (alt)

    Jan. 8th, 2018

    cyberinsekt

    Gökçen Kaynatan - Sihirbaz

    Crazy good bit of Turkish psych from 1973, unearthed by Finders Keepers for their recent retrospective of the music of Gökçen Kaynatan. I've managed to follow Kanyatan back to the 1960s when he was in a surf band. One of the key instruments for that surf sound was the theremin. It seems to have had a major effect on the young musician, because over the following decades he started incorporating more and more experimental electronic sounds into his work. Sihirbaz opens with drum machine and plinky synth before settling down into a killer psych/funk instrumental number. Crazy good.

    Gökçen Kaynatan
    (alt)

    Jan. 7th, 2018

    cyberinsekt

    Nobunny - I Am A Girlfriend

    Charming catchy lo-fi punk pop from a man in a rabbit mask. Don't you just fucking love the world sometimes? From the album Love Visions (2008).

    Nobunny - I Am A Girlfriend
    (alt)

    Jan. 6th, 2018

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    Mad Bas'tard - I Am The Future (Mix 3)

    I Am The Future is pretty much the sole recording of The Mad Bastard/Mad Bas'tard. It's a techno white label from 1991, and I have fond memories of the mix of Lee Perry, eastern European singing and the use of silence as a rhythmic element. Mind you, I was permanently out of my tree in those days, so I tend to treat any impressions I gained during those years with major scepticism.

    Revisiting it, some of the allure has faded, though this mix is well worth your time. It's absolutely stripped back to surface noise, vocal samples and ultra-cheap keyboard sounds, all pursued with a relentless mechanical rigour. And those silent breaks in the sample splices are still as hallucinatory as ever. Not a future we ever saw, and I kind of resent that.

    Mad Bas'tard - I Am The Future (Mix 3)
    (alt)

    Jan. 5th, 2018

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    Anwar Sadat - Weltschmertz

    No, not that Anwar Sadat, though I agree that would be amazing. You can't tell me you don't relish the prospect of eavesdropping on some old recordings of the former Egyptian president doing a spot of crooning, can you? I refuse to believe there aren't some vanity recordings out there made by former world leaders. What about Tony Blair's uni band Ugly Rumours? Someone's got to be sitting on those tapes waiting for the right moment, surely.

    So I'll admit, I was slightly disappointed to discover that Anwar Sadat are actually a four piece band from Kentucky. Think the industrial synth sounds of bands like Nocturnal Emissions or Laibach. On Weltschmertz from their 2017 release Ersatz Living they also bring an exciting take on metal, where everything is so heavy that it threatens to collapse at any moment and bring the song crashing down around your ears. It just makes it.

    Anwar Sadat - Weltschmertz
    (alt)

    Jan. 4th, 2018

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    Housewives - Excerpt 6

    Housewives make inscrutable and frequently unpleasant music. Their blend of industrial futurism, post-punk pain and free jazz skronk is typically wrapped in queasy and uncomfortable lo-fi muddiness. What I'm saying here, is that's entirely possible you may not like them.

    But if you suspect that you might, try this track from their 2017 release FF061116. It's pounding and detuned and pits Housewives as heirs to both This Heat and The Dead C. It's one scary racket.

    Housewives - Excerpt 6
    (alt)

    Jan. 3rd, 2018

    cyberinsekt

    The Men - Oscillation

    Oscillation comes from The Men's 2012 album Open Your Heart, and it's still one of the best builds of the decade. The growing ecstasy of their ringing shoegaze punk is full force music, choked harmonics ringing out and everything seeming to get just that bit faster as time goes on. It's almost a disappointment when the wave breaks at about five minutes in and the singing starts. You didn't have to do that, you guys. You could have kept this going forever.

    Oscillation always earns an instant replay.

    The Men - Oscillation
    (alt)

    Jan. 2nd, 2018

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    Tony Conrad - Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain (excerpt)

    Tony Conrad is a seminal figure in the history of both minimalism and rock counterculture. Too often though, his recorded output has failed to reflect that. Too often opportunistic publishers have released lesser works, poorly recorded or obviously unfinished, and this has had a significant tarnishing effect. One of the musical highpoints of 2017 was an album that finally showed him at his best. Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain is a single 88 minute long performance recorded in 1972, with Conrad joined by Laurie Spiegel and Rhys Chatham. Spiegel provides an unchanging bass pulse, Chatham plucks one of Conrad's handmade string instruments, while Conrad himself provides apocalyptic droning violin. It's an epic musical descent. An ideal point of entry for new listeners, here are the first few minutes.

    Tony Conrad - Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain (excerpt)
    (alt)

    Jan. 1st, 2018

    cyberinsekt

    Li Bo - Love of Donkir

    Happy to report that 2018 does not yet suck, a trend I can confidently foresee continuing for the next 12 months.

    To celebrate here's a terrific tune called Love of Donkir. Li Bo is a Mongolian musician, and I think the instrument he's playing here is called a morin khuur. Basically, it's a fiddle, and he plays it with the sort of rough hallucinatory gutsiness that's considered the sole province of Henry Flynt. What I'm saying is this is unexpectedly great and you should give it a listen before you sober up, okay?

    Li Bo - Love of Donkir
    (alt)

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