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Jun. 22nd, 2014

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Doug Snyder & Bob Thompson - Hit and Run

You ready for some top experimental noise rock from a guitar and drum duo? Of course you are. We always love that sort of stuff. We've loved those sounds since they first emerged in the no wave era, and not a month goes by when we don't fervently wish for another Lightning Bolt album. And there's a continuum there: you can trace those sounds from the late '70s right through to the present day.

If that's the orthodoxy, then Hit and Run is a straight out Fortean phenomenon. It's taken from the album Daily Dance, recorded in a kitchen in Ohio in 1972. It's a completely unprecedented slice of atonal primitivism recorded by a pair of musical outsiders and given a very limited release. Tantalisingly, there are a few moments here which give this music context. One guitar passage in particular - and maybe the drum sound - ties this to its era, but the rest of it could have been made at any time in the past 40 years. Apparently Snyder was influenced by early VU gigs, but this is more pre-echoing early Sonic Youth and sludge metal. An amazing discovery.

Doug Snyder & Bob Thompson - Hit and Run
(alt)

Jun. 21st, 2014

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Jimi Hendrix - Stone Free

I don't know about you, but I've always been really uncomfortable about the deification of Jimi Hendrix by classic rock fans and critics. There he is at the peak of guitar mountain, the ne plus ultra, and there isn't another black face for miles. But the fans and critics couldn't be racist. No, they'd decided that Jimi was the best so they're safe on that front. And, you know, he was conveniently dead so he couldn't challenge their interpretation.

Still, there's no doubt he was a pretty damn fine player, and this recording is one of his best. It's from the same concert series from which the Band of Gypsys1 live album was taken, but this version of Stone Free didn't surface officially until the 1999 release Live at the Fillmore East. It's epic and burning and filled with an extravagant solo, things he was always known for, but I love it for its ending where he's playing more in a rhythm guitar style. It's here that he finally becomes soulful and passionate, and the music just lifts your heart. It's no secret that Hendrix loved John Coltrane, and it's right at moments such as this that they met.

Jimi Hendrix - Stone Free
(alt)

Jun. 20th, 2014

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Stein & Plotz - Alsen Train

Here's something nicked from YouTube. Benjamin Stein plays accordion and Olaf Plotz plays the cajón, sometimes known as that box with the hole in it that you sit on. There are at least two reasons this is great. Firstly there is the music, which is sort of sinuous and folky and funky all at once. And for all other ordinal reasons it is being played in a derelict factory in the pouring rain right next to a railway track. And yes, you do get a train going past to add to the sonic ambience.

Incidentally, if you make music and you have not yet done so in a derelict factory, then I can strongly recommend the experience. Doing so in the rain is preferred if your equipment can cope with it, and if you can do it at night with a bonfire made from old tyres, all the better. You won't regret the experience.

Stein & Plotz - Alsen Train
(alt)

Jun. 19th, 2014

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The Rebel - Nothing Is Real Except Recording

The Rebel is a side project of Ben Wallers, best known for his work with spartan post-punk provocateurs Country Teasers. Nothing Is Real Except Recording comes from the 2003 album The Rocket Breaks Down and it mixes the apocalyptic end music of The Shadow Ring with the sonic nihilism of The Residents. It is clamorous, catastrophic and deeply sinister, with mean processed voices filling the spectrum. I hope this is more fucked up than you.

The Rebel - Nothing Is Real Except Recording
(alt)

Jun. 18th, 2014

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El Jesus De Mágico - Indian Giver

Looking at my notes for this one - yes, I keep notes - I see that I've written "slacked out noisepunk". Indian Giver starts lethargically and is full of howls of feedback and sounds as if it were recorded inside a store cupboard. Actually it was recorded inside a funeral home. You might decry that as a bit gimmicky, but as gimmicks go it's pretty fucking fantastic. El Jesus De Mágico were (are?) purveyors of trash rock primitivism from Columbus, Ohio and the O'Shaughnessy Funeral Home belonged to the drummer's family. Not quite so guerilla as it could have been, but still. This is taken from the 2005 Funeral Home Session 7".

El Jesus De Mágico - Indian Giver
(alt)

Jun. 17th, 2014

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Fat Worm of Error - Flea God

I don't normally go for this sort of art school theatricality, but there seems to be a healthy well of absurdism from which Fat Worm of Error draw. Sure, the sometimes frantic jabbering, child-like chants and march rhythms can annoy, and it can seem that they've got all of these great ideas for making noises but none for turning them into music... I'm not selling this terribly well, am I?

In truth I think that the theatricality of their act is the key element. Fat Worm of Error seem like more of a troupe than a band, as happy with blunt-nosed scissors and craft paper as they are with a single pot electronic oscillator. I get the impression that they thrive on performance, and their dadaist noise act might be better experienced as a semi-insider rather than via the separation that recording enforces. Flea God is taken from their 2011 album NZZNZZZZNNZNZNNNN, and it is quite charmingly loopy.

Fat Worm of Error - Flea God
(alt)

Jun. 16th, 2014

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Negativland - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (special edit radio mix)

Couldn't really listen to anything else today, could we? This is the famous one, one of the most culturally significant records ever: the track where Negativland took the late Casey Kasem's fuck-filled rant and set it to a kazoo-tastic version of the U2 song. It originally appeared on the 1991 EP U2 that was quickly withdrawn when lawyers fell upon it like a shoal of piranhas.

For many years afterwards, that made this song one of the hottest things possible. It was illegal. It could not be sold. But there was nothing stopping someone encoding it with the of the exciting new audio codecs that were being developed and uploading it to a server. No longer did you have to know someone with the vinyl or one the nth generation tape dubs, a shiny 128kbs digital copy was awaiting anyone with a modem. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For became possibly the first hit of the mp3 era.

So here's Casey Kasem giving his producer both barrels. He's just played a song by U2 and now he has to present an article about a little dog named Snuggles who has just died. How the fuck is that supposed to work, eh? In the delightfully misleading "special edit radio mix" he's joined by a host of arguing and very sweary folk to make a pretty damn rich soundscape while Negativland play I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For on their kazoos. It's a work of absurdist genius and it belongs in a FUCKING MUSEUM and IN YOUR EARS.

Negativland - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (special edit radio mix)
(alt)

Jun. 15th, 2014

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Dirty Three - I Offered It Up To The Stars And The Night Sky

In the early '90s I was reading a lot of comics, so I was familiar with the name Warren Ellis. He was a pretty good author and starting to get noticed in all the right places. So when I first heard that the Dirty Three featured Ellis on violin, I immediately dismissed them. Vanity project, I thought. Cash in. Waste of time.

20 years on I discover it's a different Warren Ellis. That's a long time to be stupid.

I Offered It Up To The Stars And The Night Sky is dry as old bones. You might call it avant-country with its dense cacophonies and uncomfortable restraint. When the music gets too quiet and full of squeaks and whistles you want it to break out, to erupt into cathartic noise. It does, but this lengthy instrumental takes its time to do so. Maybe it needed to get far enough away from civilisation first so that it didn't wake the neighbours. I love the way Ellis gets all John Cale like on his violin, making the final frenzy sound like the Velvets doing battle with their audience. But perhaps the star of the piece is drummer Jim White who manages to both keep time, and thump his kit so far off the beat that he makes a sound like a portaloo falling down a long wooden staircase. Brilliant. It's from the 2000 album Whatever You Love, You Are.

Dirty Three - I Offered It Up To The Stars And The Night Sky
(alt)

Jun. 14th, 2014

cyberinsekt

Howard Skempton - Deeply Shaded

Here's a lovely little trifle, a piece for solo accordion by Howard Skempton. Deeply Shaded is played by Boris Lenko and comes from his album Plasticity. It's 75 seconds of melancholy, deeply nostalgic minimalism. Gone is the furious rush and daring experimentation of the early days, now it is only suitable for sepia-tinted vignettes. How sad.

Howard Skempton - Deeply Shaded
(alt)

Jun. 13th, 2014

cyberinsekt

Silicon Teens - Sun Flight

Inasmuch as they ever actually existed The Silicon Teens were pretty much a joke band. I think the general idea was they they were supposed to be a manufactured group doing sparky synthpop covers of '50s and '60s classics, and were supposed to be admired ironically for that. But it was all a front, and the front was part of the act too. The Silicon Teens were none other than Daniel Miller, founder of Mute Records.

Here's a b-side of theirs, the haunting Sun Flight. Simple melodies and a naive vocal, but the keyboard sounds are completely gorgeous. The production is just about perfect, especially when the distorted spoken vocals cut in an everything becomes too emotional. Diabolically clever.

Silicon Teens - Sun Flight
(alt)

Jun. 12th, 2014

cyberinsekt

These New Puritans - Field of Reeds

It took me a really long time to start enjoying These New Puritans. I'd hear other people talk about how great they were and then the music would come as an anticlimax. But so many people really rate them that I kept trying, kept coming back to them, and I'm glad that I did. (Also, I couldn't abandon them, not with that name. The Peel Session version of New Puritan by The Fall is one of the greatest things ever recorded.)

So here's the title track of their 2013 album Field of Reeds. It's so dignified! It's got that late '70s RIO feel, like These New Puritans have been staying up late listening to Henry Cow and This Heat and Robert Wyatt. Yeah, it's tremendously English-sounding. It's entirely free of percussion and has wordless multi-tracked choral singing and fat chords. It's slow and sombre and really wet, with occasional splashes of heavy colour, and a truly shocking ending.

These New Puritans - Field of Reeds
(alt)

Jun. 11th, 2014

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Eek & Islam Chipsy - Live at the Cairo High Cinema Institute (excerpt)

Regular readers will remember Islam Chipsy, the stormingly talented Egyptian keyboard player. He's part of the electro chaabi scene over there, but very much a fringe member. It's a musical style that blends traditional elements with electro beats. It's young, it's loud and it's usually simple enough to go on all night. Chipsy's music fits the first two, but it's anything but simple. He has a fearsome musical memory. When he introduces a new theme, there's no immediate payoff. That happens way down the line, several minutes later when a motif you thought had been forgotten re-emerges and casts everything that came before it in another light. And it goes on like that. It's properly psychedelic.

And that's an odd adjective to apply to music that played at full volume (starts off too loud, gets louder) through fearsomely lo-fi equipment, ripping the supposedly pure electronic sounds to shreds. You don't expect a lone keyboard player surrounded by a pair of drummers (Eek) to produce music that's mind expanding. Yet it is, and at the same time it is utterly visceral and compelling. It grabs your body as much as it does your mind. Here's the opening few minutes of the 2014 album Live at the Cairo High Cinema Institute.

Eek & Islam Chipsy - Live at the Cairo High Cinema Institute (excerpt)
(alt)

Jun. 10th, 2014

cyberinsekt

The Lovely Eggs - Tarzan

One of the many reasons I love the Eggs is their willingness to do the ridiculous and to treat it with the same regard as anything else. Here they are in an out-take from from the Wildfire album with a short piece called Tarzan. It's muffled drums and a bit of shouting and is about minus seven thousand on the cool scale. That's how much they care.

The Lovely Eggs - Tarzan
(alt)

Jun. 9th, 2014

cyberinsekt

Joe Grimm - Harpsichord

Joe Grimm might be the next gen Charlegmagne Palestine. Where Palestine likes to overload his instrument with the sheer physical force of his minimalism, Grimm seems to take a more restrained approach. His piece Harpsichord from the 2008 album Brain Cloud feels like it might be an excerpt from Strumming Music, except that this performance never detunes the keyboard. Grimm's timbre remain bright and the harmonic shifts are caused by tiny changes of timing, or very occasionally actually playing a different note. Always exciting to hear another take on this rarefied style.

Joe Grimm - Harpsichord
(alt)

Jun. 8th, 2014

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Yong Yong - Maca Lu-Lu

Wow. So you know how reclaimed exotica is now a thing, appropriating the aesthetic but breaking the music? Well this is a stunning example from the Portuguese duo Yang Yang. Maca Lu-Lu feels as if it might once have had its roots in a black velvet painting of a dusky island maid but is now escaping from its colonialist South Pacific prison via the power of glitch beats. Whole lot of imagined geography in this one. It's from the 2014 album Greatest It's.

Yong Yong - Maca Lu-Lu
(alt)

Jun. 7th, 2014

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Werner Durand - Third Monolith-Close-Up

Werner Durand loves the sound of buzzing. You know those rare moment when a woodwind instrument starts to vibrate and feels like it might take flight? That's what he's been recreating for nearly 30 years. For his 2000 solo album The Art of Buzzing he built his own instrument, a large PVC construction with the mouthpiece from a sax. Various membranes and rattles could be added to it, but what you're hearing here is actually the sound of a carrier bag stretched over the end. Third Monolith-Close-Up adds the sound of a ney to the proceedings, and Durand makes a drone piece that sounds like it might just be a swamp full of frogs. It's the noise of vast open spaces with tiny pockets of detail. Very welcome.

Werner Durand - Third Monolith-Close-Up
(alt)

Jun. 6th, 2014

cyberinsekt

Jumble Hole Clough - Driving to the Lake

Maybe it's a trick of the light, but as you walk the Pennines it can feel as if you are just a breath away from another world. The hills themselves are alive and swollen with magic, waiting to split apart and reveal their secrets if only you knew the the path widdershins. No? Just me then.

Except I suspect it's not just me. Jumble Hole Clough is a valley that sits between Lancashire and Yorkshire, and is also the work of Colin Robinson (of Big Block 454). He weaves soft landscape tapestries out of raindrop guitars, and strews them with rocky vocal outcrops. If you've ever wondered about the sound of scree, or listened too closely for hidden messages at the edge of hearing, then Driving to the Lake from the 2014 album Better Let Him Sleep is for you. It sounds suggestive of occult significance and Arthurian secrets, of windswept paganism and the restraint of 1970s public information films. It is hiking-speed music, reminiscent of the walking art of Hamish Fulton. The journey is the true art, and the words and images and music are only a record.

Jumble Hole Clough - Driving to the Lake
(alternate download)

Jun. 5th, 2014

cyberinsekt

Jonathan Halper - Leaving My Old Life Behind

Leaving My Old Life Behind is one of the two songs that comprise the soundtrack to the 1960s release of Kenneth Anger's short film Puce Moment. They may well be the only things Jonathan Halper ever recorded. It's prime early British psychedelia, cut from the same cloth as Syd Barrett. Halper wasn't aping the mannerisms of the outsider, he genuinely was one. After recording these two songs it is said that he went off to live in a monastery. Other stories tell of him playing various gigs in mental asylums in Edinburgh. You can certainly see why this hallucinatory lo-fi music appealed to Anger, it shares much of the same aesthetic as his extraordinary films. A true gem.

Jonathan Halper - Leaving My Old Life Behind
(alt)

Jun. 4th, 2014

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Angus MacLise & Hetty MacLise - November 1965

Angus MacLise liked to hit things. Drums, but not deadlines. The original drummer of the Velvet Underground was infamous for never actually turning when the rest of the band did. He might shamble along a few days later to see what all the fuss was about, but the thought of turning up for a show where he might be paid seemed to be anathema to him.

Here he is with his wife Hetty. She plays an organ drone while he rings a few bells, and it's really very nifty indeed. It feels like you're in that performance space with them and they're making all the right decisions at the right moments. The ones you might have. It's taken from the CD-r Dreamweapon II, and it's very listenable.

Angus MacLise & Hetty MacLise - November 1965
(alt)

Jun. 3rd, 2014

cyberinsekt

New Risen Throne - Loneliness

Is it okay if I admit beforehand that I'm not totally sure about this one? New Risen Throne are an Italian act who make dark ambient music. Think of your standard airy, drifty sort of thing but with horrifying black metal undertones: scraping percussion and hidden voices. It's undeniably creepy and for the most part done with real care and attention. Unfortunately there are a few out of place keyboard tones that have a sort of '80s timbre. Their presence takes away from the horror of the sound and it becomes more obviously a performance. Loneliness is showy, tries too hard, but is nonetheless a powerfully disturbing 9 minutes. It's taken from the 2011 album Loneliness of Hidden Structures.

New Risen Throne - Loneliness
(alt)

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