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May. 10th, 2016

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Hot Dad - Randy Orton

Oh yeah, like I was going to be able to resist this. Wrestle is an album by Hot Dad. 22 tracks, all less than 1:40, all about WWE wrestlers, and all done in the style of 1980s TV shows. Here's the theme to the romantic sitcom Randy Orton, a heartwarming show about your favourite angry handbag-pooping man. It's got power chords! It's got syndrums! It's got no sense of proportion whatsoever! Will Randy Orton RKO the entire cast before the end of the episode? Will Hot Dad find true love before Randy dislocates his shoulder again? I'd love to say that only time will tell, but sadly this one never made it past the pilot. Inspired.

Hot Dad - Randy Orton
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May. 9th, 2016

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Sabu Martinez - All Camels Hump

Care for some utterly demented Afro-Cuban jazz fusion? I was hoping you'd say yes actually, but it's your call. Sabu Martinez was a prolific session conga player. He played in Latin bands while in his teens in the early '40s, joined up with Dizzy Gillespie when his previous conguero was murdered and never looked back. Not exactly who you'd pick to record the astonishing psychedelic escapade that was the 1973 album Afro Temple.

It's a glorious mix of bonkers percussion with Martinez' own poetry. None of that on All Camels Hump, alas, but it's more than made up for by the duelling flutes and frenetic percussion. And then, just when you think that's all it is, the reverb on the drums gets turned right up and the whole thing slides into crashing noise. Still sounds amazing all these years on. Super-dense music.

Sabu Martinez - All Camels Hump
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May. 8th, 2016

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Suburban Lawns - Janitor

Suburban Lawns were great. They were a Californian post-punk act signed to IRS, and while they weren't as musically adventurous as some of their peers, lead singer Su Tissue was an absolute phenomenon. She was deadpan yet deliciously fruity, and really brought a sense of subversive nonconformity to the band. After Suburban Lawns broke up she released Salon de Musique, a Terry Riley-esque minimalist piano and vocal album, got a bit part in a Jonathan Demme film, and was never heard of again. Rumour has it she's now an attorney and has no interest in returning to music. Anyway, here's Janitor the band's ode to janitors, genitals and nuclear physics. We should all be glad that it seemed like a good idea at the time. From the 1981 album Suburban Lawns.

Suburban Lawns - Janitor
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May. 7th, 2016

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LNZNDRF - Future You

LNZNDRF are A Very Brooklyn Affair, consisting of members of both The National and Beirut. Don't hold that against them though. Future You is the opening track to their eponymous 2016 debut, a mix of motorik regularity broken up with passages of rolling rhythmic escapes. It's an odd combination, and to his credit Bryan Devendorf makes it work. I'm rather less convinced by the way Benjamin Lanz's guitar tries to cross between easy melodicism and suspended sheets of sound, but overall this is appealing stuff.

LNZNDRF - Future You
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May. 6th, 2016

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Nahawa Doumbia - Koro Dia

These days Nahawa Doumbia is one of the grande dames of Malian Wassoulou music, respected at home and abroad. Her career began in 1980 when she was persuaded to travel to Bamako for that year's Youth Biennial. I can't find any online references to her age, but in this recording from 1983 she sounds to be still in her teens. Lots of nasal edge to her voice, really very untrained-sounding and charming and yet still with awesome power. Koro Dia is an amazing track, 10 minutes of unstoppable joy. Originally from the album La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 3.

Nahawa Doumbia - Koro Dia
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May. 5th, 2016

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Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Source - Lamb Rhythm

I've been noticing a fair bit of quality African influenced music coming out of Germany recently. No idea how long this has gone unnoticed by me either, which is sort of annoying. What I do know is that Mark Ernestus has loved Senegalese music for several years now and has collaborated with local musicians to bring this to a European audience. Lamb Rhythm is the instrumental b-side of the recent 12" Lamb Ji which features Mbene Diatta Seck on vocals. It's a gorgeously produced nest of polyrhythmic drums: the nder, the tama, and the sabar, all played in mbalax style. Just a lick of guitar in the background to keep things on track. It gets into some pretty amazing rhythmic phasing as it progresses - careful now!

Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Source - Lamb Rhythm
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May. 4th, 2016

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Rip Rig & Panic - Push Your Tiny Body As High As Your Desire Can Take You

Here's a quite remarkable vignette from everyone's favourite post-punk free jazz warriors. Push Your Tiny Body As High As Your Desire Can Take You comes from the band's final album, the 1983 release Attitude, when they were frankly in danger of becoming just a bit too conventional. Oh sure, all of the serious musicological influences were still there, but every now and then they'd throw in a track with lyrics, verses and a chorus, just to keep you on your toes.

None of that from Push Your Tiny Body though. It's a furious rush through North African influences. If you've heard Archie Shepp's Live At The Pan African Festival, it's a lot like that except crammed into a minute and a half and even more full of unfamiliar instruments. And yes, it is as passionate as the title suggests, though if you're looking for a musical lover you might want to pick one that lasts just a little bit longer.

Rip Rig & Panic - Push Your Tiny Body As High As Your Desire Can Take You
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May. 3rd, 2016

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The Comet Is Coming - Journey Through The Asteroid Belt

You might know of Shabaka Hutchings through his band Sons of Kemet, who play absolutely amazing UK/South African crossover jazz with a Caribbean twist. Go listen, you won't be disappointed. But that isn't Hutchings' only outlet for his sax. He's also part of The Comet Is Coming with Dan Leavers on keyboards and Max Hallet on drums. Together they make some top Saturnian science fiction funk.

Journey Through The Asteroid Belt is taken from the band's 2016 album Channel The Spirits. I love that the British take on Sun Ra's legacy has been to filter his music through ska and reggae, and you can totally hear all those influences coming together on this sinuous 5/4 time blazer. Massive sounds from this trio: pulp music at its finest.

The Comet Is Coming - Journey Through The Asteroid Belt
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May. 2nd, 2016

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Pumice - Greenock

All of Stefan Geoffrey Neville's instruments are broken. You'd think that would be it, right? That would be the end, no more making music for Stefan. Not a bit of it, that's just how the Auckland resident likes things. That's when things start to get interesting. That's when his chamber noise pop starts to come alive.

And live it does. Here's Greenock from the 2007 Pumice album Pebbles. It's a massively multi-layered plywood slab of sound, every woodchip distressed in a different manner. Sometimes it might be the out of tune piano at the school outward bound centre, sometimes it might be the accordion with the busted bellows, sometimes it might be the monitor amp with the tattered speaker that makes a brand new feedback sound. For me it is massively nostalgic, with its salvaged no-budget ethos. On its own the Bontempi-like lead organ line might have had a weary melancholy, but it's so obscured by the massed layers of distortion that it ends up sounding heroic. It's an achievement just to make itself heard. An absolutely terrific approach to noise.

Pumice - Greenock
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May. 1st, 2016

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Xex - Holland Tunnel

Do you know impLOG's classic Holland Tunnel Dive? Released in 1980, it's a stone cold no wave classic, minimal and sinister and with the finest use of a screaming jet engine in a song ever. Owes a debt to Autobahn of course, but still one of the best things ever recorded.

And yet it wasn't the only song recorded in 1980 about Holland Tunnel. Xex were a group of students from New Jersey, and in the home of denim and white t-shirts they made music entirely on synthesizers. Like the rest of their album, the initially-amusingly-titled Group: Xex, it's a bit of an oddity. There's way too little melodic material for a full track, but they went ahead with it anyway. What we'd now describe as coldwave vocals contrast with the outsider bouncy electropop of the keyboards. It's either infuriatingly naive, or it's the sound of a band torn between Cabaret Voltaire and OMD. A genuinely unexpected find.

Xex - Holland Tunnel
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Apr. 30th, 2016

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Jerusalem In My Heart - A Granular Buzuk

Here's another track by the Hotel2Tango studio's very own Radwan Ghazi Moumneh. He's gettting quite the name for himself for his radical electronic treatments of middle eastern folk melodies. The buzuk is a long-necked microtonal member of the lute family - think bouzouki and you get the general idea of the instrument. It's appropriate then that Moumneh decided to use granular synthesis to tweak the sound of the instrument as it was technique devised by the Greek theorist and composer Iannis Xenakis.

A Granular Buzuk is a terrific piece. It's built around a fast, steady pulse and an impassioned, romantic buzuk performance. But the synthetic elements start to swirl over the surface, with the grains of sound starting to sound like impossibly fast fingerpicking, and then accelerating into chaotic hurdy-gurdy drones. It's magnificent in its intensity.

Jerusalem In My Heart - A Granular Buzuk
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Apr. 29th, 2016

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Colin Newman - This Picture

Colin Newman is the lead singer of Wire. Mind you, when This Picture was released in 1980 he was the former lead singer. The band had disbanded and nobody expected them to resurface again. It's taken from his solo album A-Z, and it's a fine example of the peculiarly muddy sound that a few acts had at that time. It's a rather nauseous sonic blur, with filmy layers of sound at atonal drifts.

I'm not selling this at all, am I? In truth, this was probably a bit of a musical dead end. But it's a peculiar and interesting one, and with the recent revival of interest into bands such as Minny Pops I thought some of you might be interested in hearing what else was being done with electronics at the time.

Colin Newman - This Picture)
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Apr. 28th, 2016

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The City of Liverpool - You'll Never Walk Alone

Yesterday the jury at the coroner's court enquiry into the deaths of 96 Liverpool FC fans at Hillsborough stadium found that they had been unlawfully killed. This should have come as no surprise to anyone who had followed reports either at the time, or over the intervening 27 years, but it is a major victory for the families of the bereaved. The court has acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their kin had been systematically covered up and lied about by the police. Again this should come as no surprise.

To understand the circumstances surrounding the coverup, it's first necessary to understand the relationship between the Conservative government, the police, and the city of Liverpool. Margaret Thatcher government had a relationship with the police of the day so unhealthy that it bordered on corrupt. Police became overtly political. At the same time, the city of Liverpool was something of a bête noire for the government. It was the red socialist thorn in the steely paw of monetarist theory. Make no mistake about this: the establishment hated the popularity of left wing politics in Liverpool. It was well understood at the time, and has persisted amongst the right even to this day. Denigrating the city is still a dog whistle, a half-remembered ancestral response among certain commentators.

So if some of the police of the day allowed those 96 people to die, or even caused their deaths, it was never going to be a big deal. After all, the dead were only Scousers. The thin blue line had their protection. Thankfully, some small modicum of justice has at last been served, and it seems like this protection might finally be stripped away.

This is something the people of Liverpool have always known. They have known that they were at odds with the establishment, and that institutional corruption has led to 27 years of lies about that fateful day. They have known precisely who it was who tried to deny them justice for 27 years: the Conservative party, the Murdoch press, and their allies in the South Yorkshire police. They have borne the slurs, the lies, the schemes and machinations of these parties for a generation without ever losing hope, because they came that most unfashionable of things. They became a community. And outside St. George's Hall in Liverpool they came together and sang the song that has become the city's anthem. Taken from today's Channel 4 news broadcast, here is the city of Liverpool singing You'll Never Walk Alone.

There is such thing as society.

The City of Liverpool - You'll Never Walk Alone
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Apr. 27th, 2016

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Ava Mendoza - That Furious Harpy's Still Following Us

Until recently I'd not been fortunate enough to hear the guitar stylings of Ava Mendoza, and now I can't get enough. She reminds me of no-one so much as Casper Brötzmann with her vigorous and raucous experimentalism. Instead of Brötzmann's prehistoric brutalism, she brings equal parts contemporary noise rock, classic blues and metal guitar hero shredding. Don't expect any teenage virtuoso-fetish wank fans to climb aboard the bandwagon though, her music is far too raw for that. That and her gender, obvs. Here's the mathy and punishing That Furious Harpy's Still Following Us from my recent D&D campaign the 2015 album Unnatural Ways. Sure it's challenging, but it's also undeniably essential.

Ava Mendoza - That Furious Harpy's Still Following Us
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Apr. 26th, 2016

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Unwound - We Invent You

Unwound? Really? Aren't they a bit earnest and dreary and very much A Guitar Band? Well yes, post-hardcore is a young man's game and Doklands is most definitely not a young man's blog. But We Invent You from the band's 2001 album Leaves Turn Inside You suggests a band who were definitely aiming for reinvention. It's not so much the waves of airy psychedelia but the extended intro that proceeds them: two minutes of oscilloscope drones. It's an air raid siren clearing the streets to give Unwound space to exercise and experiment. Even if the tune that follows isn't to your taste, it's hard not to be impressed by the audaciousness of that intro. And I don't think it's beyond the boundaries of reason to hear a parallel between the roll-on, roll-off guitar and the rapid pitch sweeps that precede those initial coarse drones. You can almost hear the ghost of those initial noises throughout the song, and that's a great trick.

Unwound - We Invent You
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Apr. 25th, 2016

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Them - Baby Please Don't Go

Classic pop tune quickie for you here. Them (with Van Morrison on vocals) are probably best known for Gloria. It looms over the rest of their canon, and while it's an impressive shadow there's at least one other track by the band that deserves equal respect. Their 1964 cover of the blues standard Baby Please Don't Go is like a blast of teenage testosterone. It's equal parts r'n'b and garage rock. Nobody who was at the recording session can remember who played the great tremulous guitar line stuck in the middle of it, but legend has it as the young Jimmy Page in his session musician days. Great song, a proper kick up the arse.

Them - Baby Please Don't Go
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Apr. 24th, 2016

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Girl Band - Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage

Daft nonsense that hits you like a fucking hurricane: that's Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage, a song that sounds like it should have been a Breaking Bad episode. If you know the title, you know the full extent of the lyrics and you can probably guess how much shouting goes on too. Of course, if you know the relentless and raw original by techno act Blawan then you know that already, but frankly Girl Band take that to a new level.

So a few facts: Girl Band are Irish, they are a band, and none of them are girls. Their lead singer is Dara Kiely, who sounds a little posh except when he's screaming, which appears to be fairly often. And with their take on Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage they've turned something that was already a bit of a banger into a complete fucking juggernaut of amplification and apocalyptic, scarifying, coruscating noise. It's completely magnificent. Brain-meltingly essential listening.

Girl Band - Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage
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Apr. 23rd, 2016

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Les Reines Prochaines - Opfer Dieses Liedes

A Swiss cabaret group performing a cover version of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game? Well okay, if you say so.

I do say so, and I think for good reason. At first, Opfer Dieses Liedes seems like it might be a safe, even banal take on the song. Even the affected simplicity of performance artist Pipilotti Rist's vocals aren't quite enough to give new life to the song. It's still vaguely sinister, vaguely sweet. But three minutes in the backing vocals start, and you have never heard their like. It's the sort of ugly shriek that never makes it onto record. It's the sound of pain, despair, anger and self-loathing yelled into the night and heard several doors away. There are no concessions to art or taste, just this shockingly brutal experience. It's the damnedest thing you ever heard. From the 1995 album Le Coeur en Beurre-Doublegras.

Les Reines Prochaines - Opfer Dieses Liedes
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Apr. 22nd, 2016

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The Noveltones - Left Bank Two

Massive nostalgia time: Vision On was a children's TV programme of the the 1970s. It was meant to be accessible to kids with hearing difficulties, and therefore focussed on the visual arts. Despite this, it's probably best remembered for its music, especially Left Bank Two which accompanied the weekly gallery of viewers' drawings. It's little more than the steady walking chug of a very Parisienne guitar while a vibraphone picks out a nonchalant and lengthy melody. It really is the musical equivalent of a pleasant stroll. It's the signature theme for every good flâneur; great stuff from this bunch of Dutch session musicians.

The Noveltones - Left Bank Two
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Apr. 21st, 2016

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Earthworks - White Knuckle Wedding

Bill Bruford retired in 2009.

It's odd thing to say about a musician. They're not supposed to retire. They're supposed to go on, performing and recording, until they drop in front of our eyes. And there's something more than that. There's the unspoken suggestion that maybe, just maybe, they never loved the music and were only in it for the money. That's not something that can be levelled at Bruford though. He was a student of the drums for 40 years, the little matter of stopping playing them doesn't seem to have altered that fact. He still is, although now in the role of an academic.

Here's something from five years earlier, from the album Random Acts of Happiness (2004) by his band Earthworks. White Knuckle Wedding is a brittle piece of modern jazz notable for the furious staccato flute playing of Tim Garland. The communication between him and pianist Steve Hamilton is pretty terrific. "Clever" is usually a pejorative term when applied to music, but in this case it's a description that should be worn with pride. Great stuff.

Earthworks - White Knuckle Wedding
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