Previous 20

Nov. 22nd, 2014

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Moin - Clancy

Before listening to Moin, all that I knew about them was that they were the duo who sometimes made dark, brooding dub as Raime. What a difference a name makes. Taken from their 2013 debut EP, Clancy is made from dry, knotty drumming, slivers of feedback, and a bed dressed with sheets and blankets of guitar noise. Sparse vocals, anxiety, pain. Actually rather terrific, and hopefully a few "real" guitar bands will hear this and realise how limited their palette has been all along.

Moin - Clancy
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Nov. 21st, 2014

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Harmonia '76 - Vamos Companeros

The album Tracks & Traces is sometimes attributed to Harmonia '76, sometimes Harmonia & Eno '76, and sometimes just Harmonia. It's all the same thing: the group of Michael Rother, Brian Eno, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius. It went unreleased for 20 years, because life was hard in those days. It's certainly a stellar line up of talent, and listening to opening track Vamos Companeros you can't help thinking a lot of people were denied the chance to listen to something really good. It's dominated by a hissing, shuffling steam train beat, a static snare that phases about. Great contrast between that and the rounded and persistent bass. Echoing bleats of feedback give the track a neurotic edge. Nominally krautrock, but lie about the recording date and no-one would bat an eyelid if you told them it was post-punk.

Harmonia '76 - Vamos Companeros
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Nov. 20th, 2014

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Scout Niblett - Uptown Top Ranking

I still don't know how Uptown Top Ranking got to the top of the singles chart. Althea and Donna were a pair of unknown Jamaican teenage girls, and they didn't really have much in the way of record label backing. They couldn't actually sing all that well, but that only added to their charm. But charm never sold records, surely?

Scout Niblett's 2004 cover has a similar appeal. It's done in her trademark pared back fashion, with just a hesitant acoustic guitar and Niblett's peculiar mix of clean and raw vocals. But I do love that guitar of hers, the way she hits the E string at what you'd swear was the wrong moment only to slide into the perfect beat. Smart and just a little bit savage.

Scout Niblett - Uptown Top Ranking
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Nov. 19th, 2014

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Dirty Beaches - True Blue

Last month Alex Zhang Hungtai announced that he was to stop making music as Dirty Beaches. His lo-fi, minimal music often drew comparisons with Suicide, but Vega's pared-back take on rock and roll was done with far less chronological distance than this. For Dirty Beaches the romance and nostalgia of 1950s teen music is in no way a lived experience. The music, like the age, is lost in a transistor haze, leaving only a dull thud behind. But that's enough. That's all it takes to recreate the sound. True Blue is born of a sweet and melancholy pop song, but it has accrued the melodrama of every high school prom for the last 60 years. That's a lot of weight. Find this one on the 2011 album Badlands.

Dirty Beaches - True Blue
(alt)

Nov. 18th, 2014

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Helm - Spiteful Jester

Roll up, roll up and take a few moments of your valuable time to discover one of the wonders of the modern age. For years we have been victim, victim I tell you, to the soporific mewling of faulty musicians. No longer! No longer will they sap our vital energies with their milquetoast ways and their euphonious maladies. Science can put an end to all of that, with the miracle of Helm's Patented Whining Feedback Linctus. Unpleasant noises do a body good, I tell you. They cure most common ailments, including but not restricted to, harmony, tunes, and rhythms. Plagued by nightmarish songs that won't leave your hippocampus? You need a dose of the good stuff. Gentlemen and ladies of refinement and taste swear by the efficacious benefits of Spiteful Jester, while those of above average intelligence will already be feeling the benefits accruing to them from the 2014 album The Hollow Organ.

Helm - Spiteful Jester
(alt)

Nov. 17th, 2014

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Roly Porter - Gravity

Much as it pains the old class warrior within me, but I've got to recommend some music by a bloke called Roly Porter. I mean, doesn't that tell you everything you need to know about the modern music industry, that it takes a man called Roly to be able to produce thoughtful, expressive experimental music? It's like admitting that only the already wealthy can afford to do this any more.

(Hey Roly, sorry if this isn't you, but you really do have the poshest name I've heard in ages, man.)

Actually, Porter's background is with more club-based electronic music as part of the Bristol duo Vex'd. Since going solo however he's explored more challenging sonic spheres, producing the sort of massive sonic sculptures you might expect from, say, Ben Frost. Gravity comes from his (superb) 2013 release Life Cycle of a Massive Star, and it has the most awe-inspiring sense of scale I've heard in a long time. It's not even that this music is indifferent towards humanity, it's just that we don't register. Were this just a touch less abrasive you'd be hearing it on TV soundtracks for years, but it has the courage to be what it needs to be, littering cosmic debris in its path. Magnificent.

Roly Porter - Gravity
(alt)

Nov. 16th, 2014

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The Sleaze - Birdies

The Sleaze are a bunch of kids from Minnesota who have made a wonderful thing. Birdies is two chord punk that sounds like it's been recorded over an old telephone wire. No bass whatsoever, just a trebly lo-fi thrashing and flailing. Rather wonderfully it sometimes seems to lose its way in the middle of the guitar lines, but carries on regardless, feeling its way back into the song. From the EP Tecktonik Girlz.

The Sleaze - Birdies
(alt)

Nov. 15th, 2014

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Tagirijus - A Singing Comet

Here's something amazing. German sound designer Manuel Senfft was given access to some of the measurements that the Rosetta probe made while in orbit around comet 69P. In this case, it was a dataset recording its fluctuating magnetosphere. Or, given that it's shaped more like a rubber duck than a ball, maybe it was its magnetanatidae. Anyway, he took all the very low frequency oscillations in the magnetic field, sped them up several thousand times, and reimagined them as soundwaves. Here's the result, a drifting warble that Senfft has made sound as lonely as the comet itself.

Tagirijus - A Singing Comet
(alt)

Nov. 14th, 2014

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Psychic Ills - Incense Head

Broadly speaking, cannabis can do one of two things. One is an instant trepanation, lifting the brain completely out of the skull and taking it off into outer space. The other is wrapping everything up in a big fuzzy mental blanket. It's less intense, but the smile it leaves you with lasts longer. On Incense Head Psychic Ills are a band of the second type, with their lazy drawled vocals and drugged out desert blues. It comes from their 2011 album Hazed Dream, and it's ineffably languid. Horizontal music.

Psychic Ills - Incense Head
(alt)

Nov. 13th, 2014

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The Blind Shake - Breakfast of Failures

If you're going to spend 10 years playing primeval garage psyche noise punk, then a) you'd better really love it and b) you'd better be really fucking good at it. With The Blind Shake you get the impression that both of these apply. They released their new album, Breakfast of Failures, last month and I have to say it sounds pretty damn amazing.

Here's the title track where the Minneapolis outfit really let rip with monster-sized fuzz chords, horrorshow electronoise and doubletime urgency. Fully charged, implausibly fantastic and some of the must fun I've had listening to music all year.

The Blind Shake - Breakfast of Failures
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Nov. 12th, 2014

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Jarboe - Anhedoniac

These are the times when you just can't take it any more. Too many tunes, too much music, too much pleasure. You can't listen to any of it, because it just wants to make you feel better. You don't want to feel better, not yet anyway, and you certainly don't want someone else telling you to. And everyone's telling you to, like a vast tide of happy fascism.

Those are the times you need some Jarboe. Anhedoniac was the album she released in 1998 after the breakup of Swans, and it's as gruelling and pained a record as you'll hear anywhere. Here on the title track she gives it the full crone treatment, drawling and croaking in anguish at the death of pleasure over a repeating medieval organ vamp. Chilling. Horrifying. Just plain not nice to listen to. Exactly what you need.

Jarboe - Anhedoniac
(alt)

Nov. 11th, 2014

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Brokeback - Returns to the Orange Grove

Here is something simple and lovely. Brokeback were the band formed by Tortoise bassist Doug McCombs, and Returns to the Orange Grove is taken from their 1999 debut Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table. It's a low key bit of lounge & western guitar noodling with a few recordings of chuffing trains added to it. It's nostalgic and comfortable. Suck on that, haters.

Brokeback - Returns to the Orange Grove
(alt)

Nov. 10th, 2014

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Okkyung Lee - One Hundred Years Old Rain (The Same River Twice)

The music of Korean cellist Okkyung Lee has slowly become something of a favourite here at Doklands. She has an uncompromising attitude towards noise, being equally at home with rough sawing as she is with melodicism, and frequently packs a extraordinary emotional punch. One Hundred Years Old Rain (The Same River Twice) is the opening track of her 2011 album Noisy Love Songs. It's clearly one of her more tuneful pieces, with deft support from a band that includes Craig Taborn on piano. But what makes this chilly, still music so special is the unwavering intensity of it. There's an undercurrent of found sound and electronics beneath the tune that keeps you perpetually on edge. It's like listening to a silent scream. The music manages to be exultant and disquieting at once, quite extraordinary.

Okkyung Lee - One Hundred Years Old Rain (The Same River Twice)
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Nov. 9th, 2014

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David Bowie - I'm Waiting For The Man

In 1966 Ralph Horton was the manager for David Bowie. He took a trip to New York, and while there visited Andy Warhol's Factory studio. It was there that he picked up a white label of the Velvets' debut album, and he returned to London to share it with his young mod protege.

That explains the how, but not really the why. Bowie wasn't really Bowie at that point, thrown about at the whims of the sleazier end of the music industry. For this session, which went unreleased for many years, he's been added to the roster of The Riot Squad. So unusual to hear this being played by a beat group. They capture the song's peculiar single note tension, but then adorn it with sax and some entirely unnecessary mouth organ. Blame Bowie for the latter, apparently. His singing isn't much better either, and instead of Lou Reed's laconic drawl Bowie gives a rather flat and bored performance. Still, what an oddity this is. Don't know if it counts as the first cover of a Velvet Underground song by an unconnected party, but it was recorded before the release of The Velvet Underground and Nico. Certainly worth listening to.

David Bowie - I'm Waiting For The Man
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Nov. 8th, 2014

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Circulus - Guide Our Way

Wait, what is this? It sounds like an early 1970s freak folk number, full of pastoral bass and baroque woodwind, mannered vocals, and just a hint of detuned retro electronics. But it sounds too much like that, if you know what I'm saying. It sounds like the essence of that era, almost as if the band were trying just that bit too hard.

Indeed they might have been, because the band in question are Circulus who released several albums of this sort of thing in the '00s. They were so authentic that you half expected them to pull up a curtain at the end of each performance and reveal it was all a piece of performance art. Part Comus, part pixies at the bottom of the garden. Guide Our Way is full of wonder so naïve it cannot possibly be genuine, and that's the charm of the piece. From the 2009 album Thought Becomes Reality.

Circulus - Guide Our Way
(alt)

Nov. 7th, 2014

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Moondog - Fujiyama 2 (Lovesong)

Most people who listen to Moondog tend to go for his early New York recordings. Nothing wrong with that, of course, they're iconic. But in the process his later works tend to be forgotten, and that's wrong on all sorts of grounds.

Everything changed for Louis Hardin when he moved from New York to Germany in 1974. It wasn't just a small group of musicians treating him with respect, he now had social and institutional support. He finally had access to the resources he needed to make the music he had always wanted. A case in point would be his 1991 album Elpmas. It still has some of the percussive minimalism with which he made his name (only now far better recorded) but his sonic palette is so much wider than in earlier years.

Here's the gorgeous Fujiyama 2 (Lovesong), which has a female Japanese narrator, a male choir, a koto, and a viol ensemble. The viols are amazing. They seem to be playing some devilishly complex round, and the effect is of an enormous multi-man hurdy-gurdy. A stirring and melancholic tale of lost love, and quite extraordinarily beautiful.

Moondog - Fujiyama 2 (Lovesong)
(alt)

Nov. 6th, 2014

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prag VEC - Wolf

3 facts not actually about prag VEC

1. They're referenced in the Half Man Half Biscuit song Prag Vec at the Melkweg1
2. Their singer Susan Gogan is the sister of Barbara Gogan of The Passions who sang I'm In Love With A German Film Star
3. J.G. Thirlwell AKA Clint Ruin AKA Foetus started his recording career making strange noises for them

You see? You try to find out something about prag VEC and all that comes out is stuff that's tangentially related to them, and not about the band themselves. Late '70s, London-based, a handful of Peel Sessions, politically committed... you can see why the band might get lost or forgotten. And that's a shame, as Wolf is a great song. Shouty distorted vocals, jumpy neurotic bass and a wonderful quirky intensity. An lot of music in a very small package.

1. HMHB List vs. NWW List: FIGHT!

prag VEC - Wolf
(alt)

Nov. 5th, 2014

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The Dorf - Fünfte

Classical jazz is an almost uniformly awful phenomenon. If there's one thing worse than doing jazz versions of famous classical pieces, it's doing prog versions. Or disco versions. Or glitzy concerts of film and tv music (with or without fireworks). Or talent shows. Or light entertainment generally. Or Brussels sprouts. Or #GamerGate.

Okay, so there are actually a lot of things worse than doing jazz versions of famous classical music. I've learned something here today and maybe you have too.

The Dorf ("The Village") don't play that sort of jazz. Formed by Jan Klare they're a bunch of about 20 musicians from Dortmund who came together to produce a kind of scratch orchestra. They're noisy, freewheeling, experimental and irreverent. They don't want to replay Beethoven's Fifth symphony here, they want to reclaim its tempestuous spirit and make an infernal racket at the same time. All of which is excellent news for us, as Fünfte gives everything an ear could want from it. Big dissonant horn sections, furious drum bursts, funky abstract grooves and a manic sense of glee. All done with the aid of fellow Dortmund native FM Einheit from Einstürzende Neubauten who provides some hellacious sounds. This is some of the most fun you can get from experimental music. It's taken from the album Live (feat FM Einheit). You can't miss it, it's the one with a big picture of a tractor on the front. (I'm kidding, all most Dorf albums have pictures of tractors on them.)

The Dorf - Fünfte
(alt)

Nov. 4th, 2014

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Bet Lynch's Legs - Some Like It Hot

Growing up in the 1970s I saw four prime ministers, and each of them made some small impression on my malleable young mind. I saw Heath (who I always got confused with the bandleader)1, Wilson (pipes are cool), Callaghan (trade unions are awesome) and Thatcher (spit). But throughout all those years, one woman stood behind the bar of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street, and that woman was Bet Lynch. A peroxide beehive, a leopard print coat and a heart of gold: she became a national icon.

Bet Lynch's Legs is one of the all time great bad band names. There was a trend of really awful band names in North West England in the late '70s. You had Dalek I Love You, Pink Military Stand Alone, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. I don't know if Bet Lynch's Legs were deliberately acknowledging this fact and then turning the fatuity up a notch. Maybe not, as I always understood that the band were a side project of arch ridiculists Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias.

That might be true, it might not. Either way it's not mentioned in this splendid bit of musical archaeology over at Do or DIY which collects the entire Absurd Records catalogue. And there I found the track I've wanted to share with you for absolutely years: Bet Lynch's Legs performing Some Like It Hot.

It's a cover version of the theme to The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. But it's so much stranger than just that. It's a lounge dub version. Lounge not only in style but also in recording location. It literally sounds as if it was recorded in someone's front room. Or possibly underwater. The eccentricity is off the charts on this one. Absolutely unfathomable, thank goodness.

1. I thought I was living in a country where a man could run the country by day and play Piccadilly jazz by night.

Bet Lynch's Legs - Some Like It Hot
(alt)

Nov. 3rd, 2014

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Birdland - Wanted

Birdland were a pop punk quartet of peroxide moptops who made a handful of records in the early '90s. I don't know if they were trying to emulate the Ramones or what. Much of their stuff hasn't aged that well, but Wanted is worth hearing for its windtunnel feedback, furious power chords and balls to the wall melody. Adolescent testosterone never sounded so good.

Birdland - Wanted
(alt)

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