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Jul. 4th, 2016

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Radian - Kinetakt

If you listened to early Radian, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they part of the Austrian glitch scene alongside acts like Fennesz. But Martin Brandlmayr's band were doing something rather more subtle: while their music sounded like it took place inside a laptop much of it way actually played on acoustic instruments. Their music was cerebral and uncompromising, but it could only go so far before it hit a brick wall.

That wall proved to be the band's 2009 album Chimeric. Gone was the pretence that they weren't playing their instruments. Tracks such as Kinetakt reverberate with the physicality of the means of production. Drum membranes bounce and sing and guitar strings fizz with harmonics as they excavated a huge sonic chamber. It's an audaciously present piece of post-rock, one of the highlights of an album that proved to be the last for the band's original line-up.

Radian - Kinetakt
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Jul. 3rd, 2016

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Seven That Spells - The Colossus

Time for some more from everyone's favourite Croatian space rock noiselifers. The Colossus comes from the 2012 release Superautobahn. Expecting a more kosmische 7TS this time around? Think again, as Niko Potočnjak and crew are joined by Kawabata Makoto for some extended guitar abuse, screaming feedback, noise walls, and even what sounds like some vaguely liturgical chanting buried in the background. Short on tunes, but long on absolutely everything else, in excess of 20 minutes in fact. Definitely one of the most extreme statements I've heard from the band, with the final 3 minutes being nothing but abrasive static. Absosoddinglutely extraordinary.

Seven That Spells - The Colossus

Jul. 2nd, 2016

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Telectu - Zingaro's Tune

When Telectu started in 1982 it might have been easy to write them off as mere PiL copyists, only with Keith Levene's glass splinter guitar replaced by droning atonal keyboards. But the Portuguese duo never stood still, always looking for new horizons. Towards the end of the decade came their album Camerata Elettronica and by then they were in full-on electronic jazz mode. Zingaro's Tune is a real corker, a '70s cop funk homage full of crazy synthesised brass and the head-down insistent bass of Vitor Rua. Way better than you're probably expecting.

Telectu - Zingaro's Tune
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Jul. 1st, 2016

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Auļi - Krustukrusti

It's always going to be hard to enjoy the band Auļi without some kind of qualification or rider. They're a drum and bagpipe troupe from Latvia who make a mighty live noise, but it seldom translates well to studio recordings where they're often too restrained and mannered. They have the freedom of working in a dead tradition, pulling in influences from across Europe, and yet they have an uneasy whiff of nationalism about them. Just once, wouldn't it be refreshing to celebrate European paganism without worrying if (and in Auļi's case I must emphasise the if) you had a bunch of political ideologues as fellow travellers?

So yes, they're troubling, but art is not there to comfort and reassure us. And Krustukrusti from their 2010 album Etnotranss seems free of any agenda. It has a full sound, if maybe a little too clean and bouncy on the drums. It's odd to hear them upfront like this, and at first you might want to give them a bit of space to echo and reverberate and add a bit of sonic chaos. But the crisp clear mix here really helps give extra space to the massed bagpipe drones, and the effect is genuinely hypnotic. Genuinely unlike anything else at the moment.

Auļi - Krustukrusti
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Jun. 30th, 2016

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Renzo Spiteri - Quintessence

Have you ever been tempted to think that playing with sheet metal was the sole provenance of 1980s industrial musicians? Renzo Spiteri would like to dissuade you. The Maltese percussionist tends to extend his kit way beyond what would normally be considered musical instruments, and still finds time to bring a laptop along for the full electroacoustic experience. Here's a collection of extracts from his recent work Quintessence demonstrating his range of sonic textures. I'm particularly fond of the juxtaposition of cavernous heartbeats and screaming bowed metal. Sound quality is a bit iffy I'm afraid, although maybe it was meant to sound like it was recorded inside an old shipping container, you never can tell. It's still a collection of terrific moments.

Renzo Spiteri - Quintessence
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Jun. 29th, 2016

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Julie Kjær 3 - Alto Madness

Here's a new discovery that I quickly realised had become essential listening. Julie Kjær is a Danish saxophonist with an edgy, opinionated sound. Alto Madness comes from her 2016 release Dobbeltgænger, recorded live at the Vortex in London. It's built around Kjær's extraordinary tongue cut short notes, a rhythmic barrage of sounds halfway between a quack and a squeak. In this she's joined by drummer Steve Noble and a brilliant performance by bassist John Edwards. This is music that is creative and playful and full of the joy of razor sharp timing. Some of the funkiest new free jazz I've heard in a long time.

Julie Kjær 3 - Alto Madness
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Jun. 28th, 2016

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Machinefabriek - Vergezicht 1

Have people finally finished with the idea that electronic music is somehow less human, less emotional than its mechanical counterpoint? It was always the laziest and most tired of takes, and I'm glad to say I've not read it quite some time. Maybe bands such as Machinefabriek (AKA Dutch musician Rutger Zuydervelt) are the reason why.

The first thing that hits you with Vergezicht 1 is the warmth and immediacy of the sound. It's the inescapable blue of summer sky. It gets into your pores. Accompanied by a neurotic rhythmic tapping, the sound grows and swells and finally bursts, leaving behind something full of grace, tranquillity and genuine beauty. And yet as even that fades we're left with just that worried percussion, now in the foreground and as unsettling as ever. It's like the sting ending of a movie showing you the hand rising from the grave in its final scene. Great stuff from the 2013 single Vergezichten.

Machinefabriek - Vergezicht 1
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Jun. 27th, 2016

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Ruben Machtelinckx - McMurdo

If this is what passes for Belgian chamber jazz then I'd like some more of it, please. Ruben Machtelinckx plays tiny repeated patterns of notes on banjo, interrupted by startling strikes of electric guitar thunder from Hilmar Jennson. They fall from the sky, and the sonic aftershock is like the unnatural smell of ozone. Dramatic and rather wonderful stuff from the 2014 album Flock.

Ruben Machtelinckx - McMurdo
(alt)

Jun. 26th, 2016

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Chassol - Birds, Pt. I

Here's some gorgeous jazztronica for you from French composer Christophe Chassol. Birds, Pt. I is taken from his 2015 album Big Sun, and it's high temperature music. What do you do in the heat? You sit in a shady spot and watch the world go by. Consequently we start with electronic dogs and tape warble birdsong before Chassol enters with his inexorable modal piano figures. Some killer laid back grooves here.

Chassol - Birds, Pt. I
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Jun. 25th, 2016

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Extreme Noise Terror - Knee Deep In Shit

Here's a grindcore tonic from ENT's 1991 EP Phonophobia. No idea what Dean Jones and the late Phil Vane are singing about here, but they sound fucking angry. Me too.

Extreme Noise Terror - Knee Deep In Shit
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Jun. 24th, 2016

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Cem Karaca - Namus Belası

Imagine, if you will, a visual cross between Peter Wyngarde and John Cooper Clarke. That was the Turkish rock sensation Cem Karaca, a stick thin figure with copious hair, moustache and sunglasses. Rather less flippantly he was also a political exile, stripped of his Turkish citizenship by the military government. Namus Belası is probably his best known song, part psychedelic ballad, part protest song, part light entertainment showtune. It shouldn't work, but the compelling rhythms, eccentric instrumentation and Karaca's passionate vocal make it an essential listen.

Cem Karaca - Namus Belası
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Jun. 20th, 2016

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Moses Boyd - Drum Dance

Moses Boyd is a young British drummer who has got a lot of good press in the past couple of years. Unfortunately much of his music seems to be rather unadventurous bop, and I was ready to write him off until I heard Drum Dance. It's both muted and intense: a constant flurry of drums, a whispering bass, choke plucked highlife guitar and shimmering keyboard arpeggios. It starts where it is, ends where it was, and spends its time going precisely nowhere. That's not the point. Boyd has created music can that is simultaneously busy and dreamlike, and if that's a combination you have a hard time imagining then give this a blast and hear how it's done.

Moses Boyd - Drum Dance
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Jun. 19th, 2016

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Ich Bin N!ntendo - Cream Corn Wand

Of all the music that gets called jazz, the authentically scruffy seldom gets a look in. Actually, I'm not entirely sure why this Norwegian trio gets called jazz at all, other than the fact that Mats Gustaffson sometimes plays with them. But that's because Gustaffson knows a good racket when he hears it, and Ich Bin N!ntendo1 certainly provide that. You might call it noise rock, but other than the instrumentation and the band's punk spirit there's little in the way of rock that makes it into their dense noise excursions. Occasionally they will abandon their freeform crunch and feedback and feature some notes, but it's not exactly what you'd call a priority.

Here's Cream Corn Wand from their 2014 release Look. I love Christian Skår Winther's guitar on this track, it's a nebula of screaming electric mayhem. But more than anything the main influence on this music is the room it was recorded in, a tiny claustrophobic practice space barely big enough for the band and their instruments. All that noise and nowhere for it to go.

1. Normally I wouldn't hold with th1$ 50r7 0f 7h!ng, but if it keeps the lawyers at bay then I'm good.

Ich Bin N!ntendo - Cream Corn Wand
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Jun. 18th, 2016

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John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey - Is That All There Is?

Dance Hall At Louse Point (1996) passed me by the first time around. Maybe it was my subconscious doing its best to protect me from thinking about the album title. Can you read it without shuddering? It's a deeply uncomfortable set of words.

This is PJ Harvey starting to spread her wings a little, starting to get a little more experimental. On this track she's joined by Mick Harvey who provides a stark organ backing to this tale of nihilism and its malcontents. I was surprised to discover it was actually a Leiber/Stoller song made famous by Peggy Lee. This version is a bit special though. It's a miniature of gin necked in a windswept bus stop in a desolate coastal town, just enough of a treat to keep the cold from your bones.

John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey - Is That All There Is?
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Jun. 17th, 2016

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Iannis Xenakis - Evryali

Amongst 20th century composers, Iannis Xenakis had quite the reputation. His music was fearsome, forbidding, imposing. And you know what? For the most part that's a pretty fair summary. A lot of his music is very hard going. That's not to say that it isn't rewarding, it's just that you don't want to pick the prickly pear with the paw.

But here's the thing: that austerity isn't inherent in the music. I've heard versions of his solo piano work Evryali that have been spindly and sinister, and indeed that seems to be the dominant interpretation. But the whole point of the piece is that as written it's physically impossible to play. The pianist has to choose which parts to play and which to omit. This performance by Claude Helffer from the album Chamber Works 1955-1990 is positively cheeky. Sure it's tightly controlled, but not without humour and I fancy that at times you can hear the ghost of boogie woogie in there. Absolutely not a minor piece though: Helffer gives this a sense of scale and grandeur and really emphasises the musicality. Not what you might expect of a Xenakis composition, that's for sure.

Iannis Xenakis - Evryali
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Jun. 16th, 2016

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Snap! - Bras

Been listening to this one pretty much non-stop for the past fortnight. Dirty, clunky and solidly chunky avant-something, utterly original and free of any genre. Snap! are the French trio of Julien Desprez, Yann Joussein and Clément Edouard and Bras is the title track of their 2014 EP. It's an immaculately disjointed assortment of outsider rhythmic breaks and air raid siren keyboards, all tied together by a hollow, mechanical guitar that eventually gets the musical motor ticking over, but only after flapping uselessly on the end of an eccentric camshaft. Genuinely new and exciting music.

Snap! - Bras
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Jun. 15th, 2016

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Savages - Pitch-In

Here's a relaxing bit of nonsense from Hungarian producer Nándor Kürtössy. His album Five Finger Discount had a very limited release in 2008, but a recent reissue is getting it into a few more ears. Pitch-In mixes laid-back grooves and found dialogue to edutain listeners on how to make and control sound.

Savages - Pitch-In
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Jun. 14th, 2016

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Huntsville - Tudor

When you think Scandinavian jazz trios, you expect them to be rather forbidding. Here at Doklands, we do like a bit of forbidding. But it's not all sound and fury as the Norwegian outfit Huntsville demonstrate with this track from their 2008 album Eco, Arches & Eras. It's a delicate little folktronica number, equally adept at drones, minimal click percussion and warm acoustic guitar. Accessibly mysterious.

Huntsville - Tudor
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Jun. 13th, 2016

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Tatsuro Kojima - Rond

Here's an interesting piece by Japanese sound artist Tatsuro Kojima. Rond is structurally simple in the same way that modernist architecture is simple. Its electronic tones sit together to make perfect sense, switching inexorably between notes. But the whole building is underlaid with the ghosts of previous structures. They make their presence felt through the walls, jumping out at you from behind blind corners, sound leaking through windows and doorways that no longer quite exist. But you're never lost. You've known this building forever.

Tatsuro Kojima - Rond
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Jun. 12th, 2016

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Zeitkratzer & Keiji Haino - Setz die Segel zur Sonne

You may know the ensemble Zeitkratzer for their orchestral performance of Metal Machine Music. There's a live recording of it where they share a stage with Lou Reed, and frankly I've got to get hold of a copy sooner or later. This is rather different though. With the help of the equally seminal Keiji Haino they go all out to wreak havoc upon Stockhausen's Setz die Segel zur Sonne, part of his "intuitive music" series Aus den sieben Tagen. The pieces are intuitive in that they're not scored in the traditional sense, rather Stockhausen wrote poetic instructions for the players. For Setz die Segel zur Sonne those are:

play a tone for so long
until you hear its individual vibrations

hold the tone
and listen to the tones of others
- to all of them together, not to individual ones -
and slowly move your tone
until you arrive at complete harmony
and the whole sound turns to gold
to pure, gently shimmering fire

Now from that you might expect some rich discord that eventually flattens out into some Scelsi-like bliss, but that's not quite what happens here. In fact, starting from a dense sea of drones and Haino's extraordinary guttural groaning vocal performance, they show a far more liberal interpretation of harmony and flat out deny that fire can shimmer "gently". In fact, the final few minutes of this are as perilous a voyage as any journey to the sun should be. If this were Star Trek, the structural integrity fields would be taking a battering they would not soon forget. It's gold all right, and it's a hard won prize. From the 2016 album Stockhausen: Aus den sieben Tagen.

Zeitkratzer & Keiji Haino - Setz die Segel zur Sonne

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