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Aug. 9th, 2015

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Sun Ra - Outer Spaceways Incorporated

I suspect that Outer Spaceways Incorporated is one of the better-known Sun Ra songs, but not in this format. It's usually heard in the context of the eponymous 1968 album, but this version comes from the soundtrack to the film Space Is The Place that didn't see a proper release until 1993. John Gilmore's in there, as is Marshall Allen, and it opens with some classic lonely space organ sounds from the man himself. But what you'll remember this track for is June Tyson's lively vocal performance. She's the snap of the fingers around which everything orbits in elliptical patterns. Whenever I listen to this track I find myself singing it for days afterwards. Weirdly catchy, slightly less dense than the original and way more playful. Should be a classic.

Sun Ra - Outer Spaceways Incorporated
(alt)

Aug. 8th, 2015

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Panzerballett - The Simpsons

Okay, okay, just one more jazz metal monstrosity and I PROMISE that will be it. Would I lie to you guys? (Well actually, not only would I, it's definitely happened. Look, I write this every day and sometimes I get a little bored and make stuff up. I invented a whole musical genre and scene once, and none of you noticed. That was NOT THE DESIRED RESPONSE. You were supposed to go out and start the Wikipedia entry, but it was years ago and I've pretty much forgiven you all in the meantime. Pretty much.)

Anyway, Panzerballett are real and if you think their name is dodgy, well, you should see their hair. They're a German band and while they may be a LITTLE lacking in taste, it's mostly forgiveable because of just how much fun they seem to be having. Here they take on the theme tune to The Simpsons and make it last 6 minutes. If you're thinking the only way they could do that would be to go all prog on us then you are CORRECT. That is precisely what they do and it is HILARIOUS. I hope it is meant to be HILARIOUS or we might be in trouble. You can find this on the 2009 release Hart Genossen Von Abba Bis Zappa if you are BRAVE.

Panzerballett - The Simpsons
(alt)

Aug. 7th, 2015

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Shining - The Red Room

Shall we have more jazz metal crossover stuff? I've loved Shining ever since I heard their version of 21st Century Schizoid Man from Blackjazz (2010). Here's a track from one of their earlier releases, Grindstone (2007). The Red Room is neither as blistering nor as heavy as what was to follow, but it has its own particular demented fury. Really clipped sax riffing like mid-period Ornette and lurching giant robot bass are held together by, of all things, handclaps. Sounds like a preposterous combination, but it really works and unearths plenty of sinuous rhythms where you least expect them. Brilliant experimental fun.

Shining - The Red Room
(alt)

Aug. 6th, 2015

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Harvey Milk - I Do Not Know How To Live My Life

I'm not entirely sure that Harvey Milk are telling the truth when they say they do not know how to live their lives. After all, they're making sludgey experimental metal (that's what it's called) with a sleazy jazz intro. That sounds pretty sussed to me. I Do Not Know How To Live My Life was originally released as a single in 1995, but it resurfaced on that mammoth Relapse Records sampler I mentioned a few month back. It's maybe a little on the earnest side, but that intro is audacious.

Harvey Milk - I Do Not Know How To Live My Life
(alt)

Aug. 5th, 2015

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Howard Riley - Sunflower

You're never going earn any music cred points by becoming a Howard Riley fan. I should warn you about that first, I feel. I tied my colours to his mast (oo-er) many years ago and it's done absolutely nothing for my reputation. But on the other hand, I've become familiar with a lot of very good records.

Riley is an English jazz pianist, one who evidently owes some debt to Thelonious Monk. He's not the most subtle of performers. He either lacks a light touch, or simply chooses to seldom employ it. His playing is heavy and percussive and he uses this as a strength, shaking harmonies from his piano that you simply never get to hear anywhere else.

Here's a rather atypical piece from his 1967 debut album Discussions. Sunflower is surprisingly warm and gorgeous vignette. Riley repeats a simple melodic line a few times with minor variations, Barry Guy (on his first album recording) scrapes his bass a new one, both wrapped in the embrace of Jon Hiseman's drums. It's a lovely little thing, and if the initial pressing of the album had been at all sensible (instead of its actual figure of 99 copies) then enough people might have heard this to make it a standard.

Howard Riley - Sunflower
(alt)

Aug. 4th, 2015

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Richard Dawson - The Vile Stuff

If you like avant-folk you should listen to Richard Dawson. If you like guitar deconstructions you should listen to Richard Dawson. If you like Henry Cow and This Heat you should listen to Richard Dawson. It really is that simple.

He's an astonishing fellow. His guitar playing has the dry tones of Derek Bailey combined with the wilful cut-up style of Bill Orcutt. Whereas Orcutt specialises in the blues, but draws a wide net for his source material, Dawson seems rather more focussed. He draws from the British folk tradition, specifically the more morbid side of things.

Actally, The Vile Stuff from his 2014 album Nothing Important is something of a departure from what I'd normally associate with him. For a start, it's quite richly orchestrated, full of drones from collaborator Rhodri Davies. And while it Dawson still brings his scattershot nylon string guitar work to play, he does so on a dark psychedelic raga. It's simultaneously plodding and ecstatic. Dawson's voice is like an incantatory Robert Wyatt, as he tells the story of how a banal school field trip falls into occult horror. He picks at the bones of life and shows the dread within. It's an extraordinary artistic vision, all the more successful for his complete lack of fuss, pose or pretence. Genius.

Richard Dawson - The Vile Stuff
(alt)

Aug. 3rd, 2015

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Machinedrum - Alarma

I won't often recommend music with a programmed or sequenced rhythm. It's just personal preference, but I've always thought that the flexibility offered by being able to move around the beat is an important part of what makes music seem alive. There are exceptions to the rule of course, plenty of them. Just off the top of my head Matthew Shipp's The GoodAndEvil Sessions is an absolute killer of a record. But sequenced beats are really hard to get right.

Mind you so are live ones, so I'm not sure I'm actually making much of a point up there.

Anyway, electronic music: Travis Stewart makes it and he's rather good at it. I've no idea how you'd classify his 2011 single Alarma. There are probably dubstep elements to it, but there are also north African elements, and klaxons, and squeaky '70s funk noises, and the sort of rubbery worm bass that you'd get on early Aphex Twin records. What does that make it? Well it makes it a bit of a thrill ride to be honest. It's a cover of the 666 track that was a minor hit in the late '90s, but thankfully it's got none of the deadened monotony of the original techno beats. This is more the musical equivalent of a Hawaiian shirt. I like it.

Machinedrum - Alarma
(alt)

Aug. 2nd, 2015

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Phat Bollard - Millionaires

Do you want to listen to a band of buskers sing a particularly sweary song about rich scumbags? Yes? Then you're in luck, for Phat Bollard are that band and Millionaires is that song. It's three minutes of catchy melody combined with an extended list of some of the worst people in the world. Terrifically uplifting folk music, sung with a raw punkish edge by a guy who could easily pass for Efrim Menuck's Cornish brother. Don't miss this track from the band's 2015 album Spare A Little Change.

Phat Bollard - Millionaires
(alt)

Aug. 1st, 2015

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Swans - Oxygen

Listening to Oxygen is like a sledgehammer blow to the chest. After all these years we shouldn't really expect anything less of Swans, but the power and the quality of their music is still breathtaking. Oxygen is a majestic, grinding, disjointed behemoth of a song, and Michael Gira yodels and barks with dark joy. Not for the faint of heart or the emotionally dead. Find this passionate racket on the 2014 release To Be Kind.

Swans - Oxygen
(alt)

Jul. 31st, 2015

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The Anemic Boyfriends - Guys Are Not Proud

John Peel had a lot of records. That's hardly a secret, the man was a DJ for over 30 years and accumulated tens of thousands of records. But aside from those, he kept a wooden box containing 143 7" singles that were his particular favourites. There's a lot of rockabilly, some obscure soul classics and rather too much in the way of The White Stripes. And amongst them is this bizarre number from Alaskan outfit The Anemic Boyfriends.

Guys Are Not Proud was released in 1980. It's a minimal and perky post-punk/reggae number and it's got the best attitude I've heard in ages. The bass is cavernous, the drums are muffled, the sax is a childish delight and the two female singers drawl about how disgusting men are. It's a wholly original sound and properly funny.

The Anemic Boyfriends - Guys Are Not Proud
(alt)

Jul. 30th, 2015

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John Dowie - British Tourist

The 1970s were grim years for British comedy. Oh sure there was Python, but live acts had very hard time of it. It was the time before alternative comedy, and most club audiences expected racism and mother-in-law jokes. Many of the best comics of that era learned their craft not on that circuit, but via local arts workshops and the folk music clubs.

Of course, if you were already playing to folk audiences, why not punks too? They were just young kids hungry for new culture, and John Dowie was unlike anything else around at the time. Here's the playfully confrontational British Tourist - playful in that it isn't really confrontational at all, it's just fancy dress attitude snarling in your dad's old jacket. You know the seminal double EP A Factory Sample? Three of the acts on that influenced music for decades to come: Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire and The Durutti Column. The fourth was John Dowie. Today's track comes from his 1977 EP Another Close Shave.

John Dowie - British Tourist
(alt)

Jul. 29th, 2015

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Collegium Musicum - Mikrokozmos

Here's some dodgy prog bollocks for your delectation. By all rights this should be irredeemably awful. Collegium Musicum were a '70s Slovakian band who favoured prog reworkings of classical music in the style of Emerson Lake & Palmer. Yet I can't help but find that their take on Bartok's Mikrokosmos has a few things going for it. Most notable is the drumming of Dušan Hájek, who has a particularly dry tone and isn't afraid to break out into double time or lead with some extravagant tempo shifts. I genuinely love what he does on here. And as a band, they're not afraid to pile on the dissonance, which is always good to hear.

The original Bartok is made up of over a hundred individual pieces. It's basically a musical tuition manual. The earliest pieces are suitable for beginners (as long as they can cope with the banality of them), but if you take your time to master each part by the end you'll supposedly be playing at concert standard. It's been many years since I tried to make the first book of Mikrokosmos sound interesting, and I honestly never managed it, so it's a particular pleasure for me to hear this band dive in with (presumably) a few of the later parts. Just remember it's very much of its time and really is exceedingly dodgy. From the 1976 live album Marian Varga & Collegium Musicum.

Collegium Musicum - Mikrokozmos
(alt)

Jul. 28th, 2015

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Dreamboys - Outer Limits

Here's a treat for any fanbeings out there. The Dreamboys were post-punk band active in Edinburgh and Glasgow around 1980. Very much a local band, they were musically unremarkable, released one record and were largely forgotten. Until, that is, someone remembered that their lead singer was none other than Peter Capaldi. Oh, and Craig Ferguson was in the band too.

I don't know what Ferguson played, but listening to Outer Limits you can definitely recognise Capaldi's voice. It's rather endearing the way he tries to emote way past the limits of his singing voice and ends up yelling into the void. Sort of wish he was singing "Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off," but we can't have everything.

Dreamboys - Outer Limits
(alt)

Jul. 27th, 2015

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Justice Yeldham - 266 Chippendale (14-07-06)

Australian musician Justice Yeldham has quite the reputation inside the noise community for the intensity of his performances. A lot of that, it must be said, comes from his chosen instrument. Yeldham plays panes of glass. A contact mic feeds into a plethora of effects pedals, and he creates sounds by ramming his face against the glass and vibrating his lips. Think of it as a cross between a kazoo and a trumpet mouthpiece, but one that you can also grip with your teeth.

Oh yes, teeth get involved. Some of Yeldham's performances see him biting chunks out of his intstrument and yes, blood does get shed. But it's really not about the "performance" side of the performance, not at all. Yeldham really is all about the noise. His stage style is sometimes compared to Iggy Pop, but for me a better comparison is late period John Coltrane. His music has the same desperate search for meaning, the fiery overblowing, the wild transformational power.

Here's a live performance taken from his album Cicatrix (2007). 266 Chippendale (14-07-06) has him spitting furious static, feedback shards, and a tectonic divebomber growl all at once. Absolutely fucking extraordinary.

Justice Yeldham - 266 Chippendale (14-07-06)
(alt)

Jul. 26th, 2015

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Can - Millionenspiel

Das Millionenspiel (1970) is an early filmed version of the story that Robert Sheckley kept re-writing throughout his career where a man is being hunted on a tv game show. It's the exact same premise as The Running Man, but this take on the story has the distinct advantage of not featuring Arnold Schwartzenegger.

(An aside: I just remember that The Running Man was based on a Stephen King book. That's shocking. There's paying hommage to another author and then there's outright nicking all of his plot elements. Very fucking shoddy indeed, Mr King.)

Anyway, Irwin Schmidt wrote the theme music and it's great. It showed up on the 2012 excavation of Can outtakes The Lost Tapes. The opening is all shimmering heat, dazed and sunblind, giving no clue about what is to come. The main theme is a strident and caustic piece of psychedelic surf jazz, and it's got a strange flute interlude. As a single piece of music it's a bit all over the place, probably what's needed for a soundtrack, but that main theme riff is a thing of genius. Schmidt has done a fair bit of film music over the years, I wonder if a compilation of that is in order?

Can - Millionenspiel
(alt)

Jul. 25th, 2015

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Future of the Left - Fingers Become Thumbs

Time for something rather more light-hearted. Future of the Left are a post-hardcore outfit from Cardiff. Some of them used to be in the fondly-remembered Mclusky, and they don't let themselves take themselves too seriously.

A case in point: Fingers Become Thumbs from their 2008 album Curses. It's packed full of noise rock riffing and packs way more melody into its 2 minute length than is necessary. It's silly, self-consciously histrionic, but more than anything else it's fun. Remember having a good time? It used to be right up there at the top of your list of things to do.

Future of the Left - Fingers Become Thumbs
(alt)

Jul. 24th, 2015

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Negativland - Crosley Bendix Reviews JamArt and Cultural Jamming

Well damn. Don Joyce, the radio DJ who became a regular Negativland band member and collaborator, died earlier today. Inasmuch as "lead vocalist" means anything for an act like Negativland, that's what he was. He was the voice of the band, a small, nerdy and sardonic voice that was capable of suggesting unusual emotional depth. His radio show, Over The Edge ran weekly since 1981, sometimes with contributions from other band members but equally likely to be solo affairs. A handful of these shows saw further release on CD, and today's track comes from what is perhaps the best known, JamCon '84.

It's from a show where Joyce introduced his term "culture jamming". It's derived from the actions of a few guerilla radio hams who liked to subvert the formality of the medium, but Joyce expanded the meaning to include similar actions in different media. Here he is in his Crosley Bendix persona talking about the remixing and reappropriation of symbols of cultural subjugation. He was a friend to adbusters, tape splicers and old school trolls and he will be much missed. Good goodbye.

Negativland - Crosley Bendix Reviews JamArt and Cultural Jamming
(alt)

Jul. 23rd, 2015

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Koby Israelite - Kashmir

When I think of Koby Israelite, I think of him as a klezmer guy. He was a part of the Jewish jazz revival of the 1990s as the influence of John Zorn brought new modalities into the world of avant jazz. While there is klezmer in his music, but there are also a lot of other musical forms from over the globe. Israelite has a voracious appetite for styles and genres, and a light touch about applying them.

Here's his take on Led Zep's Kashmir from his 2013 album Blues From Elsewhere. It features Tigran Aleksanyan on duduk, the Armenian oboe that is perhaps the most mournful instrument of them all. With its positive globalism it won't surprise you, but it will entertain.

Koby Israelite - Kashmir
(alt)

Jul. 22nd, 2015

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Glaxo Babies - She Went To Pieces

As far as I'm concerned, the Glaxo Babies were one of the best things going on in the UK post-punk scene of the late '70s. They went from abrasive clipped punk/funk to atonal noise adventures to free jazz. I love this live version of She Went To Pieces from their 2006 retrospective compilation, Dreams Interrupted. It's hard to tell if it was badly recorded or if the band just had a really shit PA system that night, but the sound quality is all over the place. Somehow this works. The muddiness adds spatial volume to the band's sound, and this sinister and intense piece builds into a brilliantly cacophonous climax. Never an easy band to like, but this shows why some people truly loved them.

Glaxo Babies - She Went To Pieces
(alt)

Jul. 21st, 2015

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Sarah Silverman & Jeff Goldblum - Me And My Shadow

DID YOU KNOW? When Sarah Silverman isn't doing her hilariously fucked up comedy routines, she likes to relax at home with a healthy salad and sing jazz standards at the piano with her friend Jeff Goldblum. It's some fun shit.

Sarah Silverman & Jeff Goldblum - Me And My Shadow
(alt)

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