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Sep. 7th, 2016

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Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra - Saturn Hoola Hoop

If you're like me you probably already love the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra a little bit after merely reading their name. It's okay. You're allowed. For once, they're a band who call themselves an orchestra and they're really not kidding. They've got a string section, flutes, clarinets, saxes, keyboard, a smattering of brass, electric guitars and a proper drummer. They've got a harp. They've even got a bassoon, and believe me when I tell you I'm always glad to hear a bassoon in action.

And what action! Saturn Hoola Hoop begins as lonely melody lost in the swirl of the cosmic winds and turns into an incredible broken-legged roar of experimental hip hop. It's got cripplingly awkward alien swing rhythms, like some extra-dimensional space monster that keeps phasing into our reality. Completely essential listening from their 2012 album Bum Bum.

Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra - Saturn Hoola Hoop
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Sep. 6th, 2016

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Henri Texier - L'éléphant

L'éléphant may just be the most European sounding music ever recorded. Henri Texier is a French jazz bassist and these days is something of an elder statesman of the scene. This however comes from his second solo album, the 1977 release Varech, and it's straight out of the Ennio Morricone stylebook. Texier's acoustic strings are superbly resonant as he plays against a wordless vocal melody in a piece that would sound right at home in a Euro road movie. Love the way he keeps stretching out his bass part before returning home with it, very Roy Harper-esque actually. Texier had his roots in early progressive folk-rock act Total Issue so he was coming from a similar place. Like this one a lot.

Henri Texier - L'éléphant
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Sep. 5th, 2016

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Varghkoghargasmal - Far Away From The Earth

It's always good to revisit perplexing old music to see how well it stand up. Take decidedly odd one man outfit Varghkoghargasmal, who made a sort of outsider black metal with detuned guitars, cheap drums that were frequently miles away from the beat (deliberately so), and other seemingly naive elements. I was very keen on them at the time, but time dulls the shock element of the sound leaving less behind than perhaps I had initially thought. But it's still delightfully confusing music. Witness Far Away From The Earth that takes such overused metal elements that it sounds almost parodic, especially when they get tied up with Bontempi organ melodies. Very little like this before or since, it's almost a Culturcide-like deconstruction of the genre. From the 2007 release Drowned In Lakes.

Varghkoghargasmal - Far Away From The Earth
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Sep. 4th, 2016

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CFO$ - Glorious Domination

It's okay to admit to liking library music. Plenty of trendsetters will agree with you that there's much to admire in all those hours of functional tunes. But professional wrestling entrance music? What on earth is there of merit in that?

Well quite a lot, actually, and Glorious Domination is the finest piece of entrance music I've heard in many years. It's the theme of Bobby Roode, a veteran performer who has finally been signed up to the upper echelons. He knows that he deserves his spot, the crowds know that he deserves his spot, and boy does his music ever know that too. It is an astonishing bit of cod pop opera, so overblown that it might have had Freddie Mercury advising the performers to dial it back it a bit. It's nearly 4 minutes of keyboards, wanky guitars and massed manly vocals, and when you've heard the main theme once you've heard the lot. But it's going to play another 4 times anyway so that you can sing along. And if you're there in the building, you WILL be singing along.

But perhaps the smartest thing of all his how well this is going to work for Roode whether he plays good guy or bad guy. When he's the hero, the crowd will love him for their chance to sing along, and when he's the baddie then this massive slice of pomp will be there to illustrate his ego. As "pure" music it might be lacking, but as a functional element of a show it's nothing short of genius.

CFO$ - Glorious Domination
(alt)

Sep. 3rd, 2016

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Ingeborg Oktober - Feskarkjerringvals

Here's something quite exquisite from Norwegian singer/songwriter Ingeborg Oktober. Feskarkjerringvals is played in waltz time with Oktober accompanying herself on the harmonium. A third of the way through a very muffled drum comes in, but that's it. It is, of course, adorably solemn and mournful. Her high voice lilts and trips over the dusty antiquity of the keyboard, and I have absolutely no idea what she's singing. Doesn't matter, as what is actually being said is "Move over Nico, it's time for someone else to be the iconic voice of harmonium singing." One of the best things I've heard this year, although actually from her 2014 album Hjerteræk.

Ingeborg Oktober - Feskarkjerringvals
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Sep. 2nd, 2016

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Souljazz Orchestra - Lotus Flower

Windows 10 is dicking about with computer and losing audio drivers all over the place and it is stressing me the fuck out because it's making me miss my self-imposed deadlines and is stopping me acting like the chill and sardonic idiot that you have come to know and tolerate. Grr.

I need to wind down or I will be grinding my teeth in my sleep again.

With that in mind here's the gorgeous Lotus Flower by Ottawa/massively international outfit Souljazz Orchestra, and it might, just might do the trick. It veers dangerously close to mellow acid jazz but is saved by the flowing beat, the waves of sonic texture, and the tremendous woody bass of Philippe Charbonneau. From the 2010 album Rising Sun.

Souljazz Orchestra - Lotus Flower
(alt)

Sep. 1st, 2016

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Sultans Of Ping F.C. - Armitage Shanks

Essential '90s nostalgia here from a parallel dimension where no shit music existed. Sultans Of Ping F.C. might have had a sense of humour but they really weren't a novelty act. There's no self-conscious whimsy to their offbeat thrash punk, part Fall, part Wedding Present. Singer Niall O'Flaherty might have had a few Lydon-esque vowels in his repertoire, but he was very much his own man with his own sense of savage righteousness. Other bands might have turned a song about everyone's favourite urinal manufacturer into a joke, even god forbid a Cockney rhyming one. The Sultans saw it as a chance to celebrate a factory of fine craftsmen doing a job that the rest of the world laughed at. Don't know where they got that idea.

Sultans Of Ping F.C. - Armitage Shanks
(alt)

Aug. 31st, 2016

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Cabaret Voltaire - Yashar

Here's a great old Cabaret Voltaire track from their 1982 double EP 2x45. Yashar is full of paranoia, strident clashing industrial synths and snakelike modalities. It still sounds as raw and shocking as it did when it was new, though the accents in the vocal samples definitely do date it. Whatever you do, make sure you get this one and not the later remix as by then the Cabs were as guilty as any of their compatriots of ugly '80s overproduction. But this always brings a shiver of delight, and the unease of the "There's 70 billion people in there/ Where're they hiding?" sample is exquisite.

Cabaret Voltaire - Yashar
(alt)

Aug. 30th, 2016

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Peter Maxwell Davies - Country Dance (Scotch Bonnett)

Peter Maxwell Davies was probably my entry point into "difficult" classical music. I'm old enough to remember when pop culture wasn't the dominant culture, when mainstream television still made time for the odd little bit of experimental menace. Davies was very much in vogue in those days, largely because of the tireless work he did bringing his music to schools. Get to them young enough, the theory went, and a dislike of 20th century classical music wouldn't have taken root.

So I probably heard (and enjoyed) his music at an early age. But it was unlikely to be anything quite as shocking as Country Dance (Scotch Bonnett) from his 1969 work Eight Songs for a Mad King. It's a highly theatrical song cycle which demands a four octave range from its singer, as well as a willingness to engage in some extraordinary extended techniques. So it is with this piece which opens falsetto, dives down into a sub bass croak, and then turns into a ragtime stroll where the performer has to sound as if he was singing through a vintage microphone. No time to get comfortable with the unexpected tunefulness though, as a highly dramatic crash leaves our singer quite distraught.

These days such an interpretation of madness might be looked down on, as audiences demand a rather more sympathetic portrayal. But this is great stuff, demanding and frightening and deliberately shocking. One for our younger readers, we might hope.

Peter Maxwell Davies - Country Dance (Scotch Bonnett)
(alt)

Aug. 29th, 2016

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The Gaunga Dyns - No One Cares

This is a real treasure: a 1967 oddity from Louisiana garage rock outfit The Gaunga Dyns. It might just be another fuzz guitar workout if it weren't for the decision of drummer Ricky Hall to improvise everything on the spot. The result: a furious workout, everyone ends up playing much too fast for comfort, and the band fall over themselves trying unsuccessfully to keep up. More music should go wrong like this.

The Gaunga Dyns - No One Cares
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Aug. 28th, 2016

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Mentally Ill - Gacy's Place

Crude, tasteless, and entirely without merit: it is for these reasons that we love Gacy's Place. Mentally Ill were a band of Chicago punks who formed in 1979 solely to record this ode to the city's most famous serial murderer, the killer clown himself Mr John Wayne Gacy. It's entirely as appalling as you might hope and even more fun. Not only is the most audible lyric the repeated "they're fucking your kids", the whole thing sounds as if it was recorded inside a biscuit tin. Audacious to be sure, but mostly just very very cheap. Top quality trolling.

Mentally Ill - Gacy's Place
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Aug. 27th, 2016

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Carlton Melton - Sarsen

Carlton Melton are the California space rock trio who sound like they should be a Cotswold village. There is something of that on Sarsen from their 2014 album Always Even, for while it is by all accounts something of a kosmische instrumental banger there's also a fuzzy sonic haze playing over everything. This is the sonic equivalent of the way light catches motes of dust in bucolic '70s ruralism. Alas, probably not a deliberate subversion of the genre. Still the music of the spheres, but also seems equally at home in sunny meadows.

Carlton Melton - Sarsen
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Aug. 26th, 2016

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Half Man Half Biscuit - Stuck Up A Hornbeam

Consulting the archives, I make this the 15th Half Man Half Biscuit song that I've written about for Doklands. There are those who would consider this excessive, and there are those who would wonder what I was doing missing out on the other hundred or so. They're a band who attract that kind of devotion.

Still, Stuck Up A Hornbeam seems like an odd pick. It sounds like Status Quo, ferchrissakes, if only Quo were louder and uglier. But there's no getting away from it, it is 12-bar boogie blues rock. And that's the whole point. Because if you're writing a song where the protagonist is about to hang himself from a tree, what could be funnier than giving it a good headbanging tune? It's merciless in its depiction of the banality and lethargy of depression ("For you I'd lose my self-esteem/ For Crewe I'd use Junction 16"). Find this one on Urge For Offal (2014) and don't say you weren't warned.

Half Man Half Biscuit - Stuck Up A Hornbeam
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Aug. 25th, 2016

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Brainbombs - Slayer

The classic Swedish noise band Brainbombs don't have the usual array of musical elements. Sure, sometimes their noise rock was identifiable as both noise AND rock, but at other times... not so much. One such occasion was Slayer, the opening track from their 1999 album Urge To Kill. In part it's got the cavernous reverb and queasy chug of Throbbing Gristle, in part there's the twang of someone like Duane Eddy or Johnny Marr (but buried under a pile of distortion, naturally) and in part there's a very Jon Hassell-like trumpet ghosting away. This being Brainbombs, the whole thing is a paean to (yawn) psychopathy and (yawn) murder, but you can't have everything. And after all, the sound is absolutely killer.

Brainbombs - Slayer
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Aug. 24th, 2016

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Urinals - I'm A Bug

I'm A Bug is awesomely dumb and you will adore it. Urinals were a late '70s LA punk act who specialised in 2-chord minimalist thrashes. You can hear the 1960s garage rock roots of punk lingering on in the handful of recordings they put out. They formed as a joke, but local audiences accepted them for what they were. I think they got it. It's hard not to when the band in front of you is singing about holding their lovers in their pincers and dining on fine DDT. I'm A Bug originally featured on Another EP (1979) and is collected on the retrospective compilation Negative Capability... Check It Out! (1996). Lots of fun to be had here.

Urinals - I'm A Bug
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Aug. 23rd, 2016

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Deborah Harry - Invocation To Papa Legba

Are we used to Debbie Harry being Deborah Harry yet? I suspect not. As long as there are still middle-aged men thirsting for that peroxide hair and those red lips, she'll always be Debbie. It's like with David Cameron; it didn't matter how much else he did, that one little cock in a dead pig incident proved to be his lasting legacy. Reinventing herself after being in Blondie may have been less embarrassing, but equally as difficult.

Here's a step along that road. Invocation To Papa Legba is from the 1989 compilation Like A Girl I Want You To Keep Coming, where Harry fits in effortlessly amongst the likes of Karen Finley, William S Burroughs and Henry Rollins. Is it authentic Voudoun ritual music, and is this an act of cultural appropriation? I'm in no position to offer an opinion on that. The shuffling, slightly phased drums and chanting sound brilliant, and that's good enough for Doklands.

Deborah Harry - Invocation To Papa Legba
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Aug. 22nd, 2016

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Moussa Doumbia - Keleya

I hope you'll forgive me if I don't have anything to tell you about Moussa Doumbia. It's a difficult enough job trying to research Malian funk musicians of the 1970s, but when there's a footballer with the same name is when I choose to wallow in ignorance. And that's a shame, as I'd actually like to at least know if he's related to Nahawa Doumbia.

Anyway, here's his 1974 single Keleya, and it's an absolute bomb. There's a rambling psyche-ish organ lead, a big soulful brass section, and Doumbia himself is in full James Brown mode with his screams and howls. Come for the beefy afrofunk, but stay because you're absolutely baffled by the drum patterns.

Moussa Doumbia - Keleya
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Aug. 21st, 2016

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Sarah Bernstein - and I will

Here's another breezy and invigorating performance art jazz number from Sarah Bernstein's 2011 album Unearthish. Bernstein's rather knowing vocal intonation might suggest something that values the theatricality of her work above the actual music, but that proves not to be the case. She's aided in this regard by the drumming of Satoshi Takeishi who provides an enjoyably dynamic structure, and her own spry violin experiments are pennants along the route.

Sarah Bernstein - and I will
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Aug. 18th, 2016

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Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation - Sunny Afternoon

Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation are a Swedish act who push all the right psyche and krautrock buttons: great songs, cool sounds, austere vocals, and judicious use of repetition. But the reason I love Sunny Afternoon from their 2015 album Horse Dance is none of those things. Instead it's the magnificent propulsive drumming of Christopher Cantillo, who sounds like his misspent youth was taken up listening to Louis Moholo. Other bands take note.

Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation - Sunny Afternoon
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Aug. 17th, 2016

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Heroin In Tahiti - Death Surf

Death Surf has a slow build, but it's so worth it. Heroin In Tahiti are an Italian duo who operate in the same sonic arena as bands such as Monopoly Child Star Searchers. Think multilayered seas of reverb using exotic primary sources. In the case of Death Surf, the ambient drones and wave sounds are met by the unmistakable twang of surf guitar. It's music that seems born of stupor, blinking in confusion and the threat of overload.

Heroin In Tahiti - Death Surf
(alt)

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