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Dec. 17th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Non Band - Duncan Dancin'

Back in the day, if you liked your post-punk jazz you had quite a few options. You could go for the startling rawness of Essential Logic, the art school experimentation of The Pop Band, the free jazz chops of Rip Rig + Panic, the scratchy funk of Maximum Joy. Hey, you even have Pigbag who were a lot more than a novelty instrumental single (albeit a great one).

But what you didn't have was any conception of this being an international music.

Non Band were a Japanese group who released one self-titled mini-album in 1982 and then disappeared. It's so good that it hurts to think that I've never heard it until now. Here's the opening track, Duncan Dancin', which uses its vocals/bass/drums/clarinet orchestration to create a distinctive sonic space. Not quite jagged, the rhythms are way too supple for that, but certainly filled with plenty of unexpected sonic barbs for the unwary listener.

Non Band - Duncan Dancin'
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Dec. 16th, 2018

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Clarice Jensen with Jóhann Jóhannsson - BC

BC, the Clarice Jensen's collaboration with Jóhann Jóhannsson, bears some similarity to The Disintegration Loops. It's the sound of her cello gradually coming to terms with the digital interference put it its way. It plays on through bubbles of stream lag and grains of distortion, eventually coming to and end through the beating of warped tape. Terribly sad, made all the more poignant by Jóhannsson's early death this spring. From the album For This from That Will Be Filled (2018).

Clarice Jensen with Jóhann Jóhannsson - BC
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Dec. 15th, 2018

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Buzzcocks - Boredom / Bonzo Dog Band - Canyons Of Your Mind

I think as a teenage kid Buzzcocks may have been my very favourite band. And why not? A bunch of queer coding, punk energy and some of the best pop songs ever written. And those single covers! They must have opened the eyes of a generation to the possibilities of graphic design.

When Pete Shelley died a few days ago, it seemed that all anyone wanted to talk about was his guitar solo from Boredom from the Spiral Scratch EP. How it was a revolutionary act, how it deconstructed the language of music, how those two notes repeated over and over again were the birth of DIY. Maybe it was all intentional, maybe not, but I can tell you that listening to the music as a kid it didn't sound like revolution. It just sounded like music. So maybe it did do its job.

But Shelley's guitar solo wasn't entirely without precedent. When the DJ Mark Lamarr asked him what inspired it, he gave a rather unlikely answer: Canyons Of Your Mind by the Bonzo Dog Band.

Canyons was the b-side to the Bonzo's minor hit, the Paul McCartney-produced I'm The Urban Spaceman. It's a marvellously absurd bit of crooning, with Viv Stanshall never once breaking character: upper class, overemotional, sharing too much. And it also features what is widely considered one of the worst guitar solos of all time.

It was deliberate of course. Neil Innes' fractured scrabbling was in no way a random decision. It's perfectly mirrored towards the end of the song by Stanshall's own vocal breakdown, an epiglottal mayhem of half-vocalised stutterances and belches. The words will stick with you for years, and if your musical memory is anything like mine, that guitar solo will too. It may be played for laughs, mocking the excesses of singers like Johnnie Ray, but the band dug deep on this one. It wouldn't be so memorable if they weren't, on some level at least, really feeling it.

That's what outsiders do. They hide in plain sight, waiting for someone to recognise the signs.

Buzzcocks - Boredom
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Bonzo Dog Band - Canyons Of Your Mind
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Dec. 14th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Toshio Matsuura Group - L.M. II

This is a great find. Toshio Matsuura was one of the pioneers of acid jazz, and on his album Loveplaydance (2018) he is joined by a group of young UK musicians. It's mostly covers of dancefloor pieces like the d&b classic Brown Paper Bag, but I honestly reckon the album's strongest is the one original, L.M. II. It's a trio piece built around an amazing bass groove by Tom Herbert who brings an almost post-punk influence to this storming bit of future jazz.

Toshio Matsuura Group - L.M. II
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Dec. 13th, 2018

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Oneida & Rhys Chatham - Well Tuned Guitar

When JS Bach wrote The Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722, it wasn't just a book of 24 pieces for keyboard. It was a demonstration that keyboard instruments could now play music in every one of the major and minor keys of the chromatic scale. That doesn't seem unusual to us now, but before well-tempered instruments notes sounded differently depending on which key they were in. A G in the key of C would sound at a different pitch from a G in the key of D, because in each key the notes were based on regular harmonic intervals. Now harmonics sound fantastic, but that's no way to divide a scale because it means that an instrument that plays naturally in one key can never accompany one that plays in another. It wasn't until equal temperament and the use of logarithmically derived scales that this all became possible.

This was a great boon for orchestras, but something was lost along the way. A hint of what that might be can be heard on this piece, written by Rhys Chatham for Oneida. Their guitar strings were retuned to Pythagorean just intonation, and the frets mostly weren't used except for providing harmonics. Just as well, as otherwise it would have sounded like a ghastly out-of-tune mess. But sticking to harmonics means that the guitar becomes capable of this forgotten world of pitch, and Chatham exploits it brilliantly, first by making overlapping notes slide and shear past each other, and then through the use of rhythmically applied silence. It's multidimensional No Wave, and one of the finest xenharmonic pieces I've heard in years. From the 2016 release What's Your Sign?.

Oneida & Rhys Chatham - Well Tuned Guitar
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Dec. 12th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Jad & Nao - Fish

Jad & Nao are indie auteur outsider Jad Fair and noise popster Naofumi Ishimaru. If you like your electronics in bleats, blasts and expressionistic squiggles and your vocals doing much the same, then chances are this 90 second oddity is exactly the thing for you. Not sure if this exists outside the mammoth triple album anthology Beautiful Songs- The Best Of Jad Fair, but it should, if only so the rest of his music can be beautiful and this gorgeous ugly stepchild can run free.

Jad & Nao - Fish
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Dec. 11th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Sonar - Steel Cathedral

Here's some insistent and minimal jazz from the band Sonar, a quartet led by guitarist Stephan Thelan who released their 2012 album A Flaw of Nature on Nik Bärtsch's Ronin Rhythm label. You can guess from that that it's going to be in the Swiss "zen funk" style, but nothing can quite prepare you for how dangerous this track sounds. Maybe it's the guitar harmonics, never letting the strings give the full story. Maybe it's Manuel Pasquinelli's drum kit, which sounds like it consists entirely of whispering cymbals and authoritative rim clicks. But I reckon it's the sinister offbeat bass of Christian Kuntner, dividing the rhythm into shapes that have no name.

Sonar - Steel Cathedral
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Dec. 10th, 2018

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Oake - Viertes Buch: Mortre Wrid

Care for some industrial techno with old school 4AD ethereal vocals? The duo of Eric Goldstein and Konstanze Bathseba Zippora may be just what you're waiting for. Viertes Buch: Mortre Wrid comes from their 2014 album Auferstehung and has the rasping concrete of cars passing at night, Hyperdub bass drops and underpass echo. For all its dirty monochrome surface, the slow emergence of Zippora's vocals brings unexpected passion in the most unlikely of places.

Oake - Viertes Buch: Mortre Wrid
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Dec. 9th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Karl Blau - Tha' Ole Moon Smile

So I get the impression that Karl Blau is one of these mumbling indie guys who reckons the worst thing you can ever do is to be emphatic. Yeats has a lot to answer for with that whole "the best lack all conviction" malarkey. On Tha' Ole Moon Smile Blau slouches towards Bethlehem with a distinctly funky stride. It seems like there should be contradiction between the natural hesitancy of his delivery and his chosen musical genre, but there's something about the way he hangs back that just lets him sit on the beat that much more convincingly. It's from his 2009 album Zebra.

Karl Blau - Tha' Ole Moon Smile
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Dec. 8th, 2018

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Harvester - Kristallen Den Fina

Okay, time to go back to 1969 for some Swedish freak rock. You may know Harvester from their prior incarnation as Pärson Sound, or more likely their later one as Träd, Gräs & Stenar. But between those incarnations they hung out with young communists and turned traditional folk tunes into dark ritual music. Kristallen Den Fina comes from their album Hemåt, and what it lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in unintelligible tortured vocals and frenzied pipes. Tremendous fun.

Harvester - Kristallen Den Fina
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Dec. 7th, 2018

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Daniel Brandt - Chaparral Mesa

Daniel Brandt is one third of Brandt Brauer Frick, the German group known for playing techno on orchestral instruments. Chaparral Mesa comes from his 2017 album Eternal Something and features what at first sound like a pair of very muddy guitars. Yet as it progresses the unfamiliar rhythms start to mesh like rotating cogs, creating an unusually intricate sea of sound from which more arresting timbres might emerge.

Daniel Brandt - Chaparral Mesa
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Dec. 6th, 2018

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Liquid Liquid - Cavern

One of the most influential songs of the 1980s was White Lines by Grandmaster Melle Mel, and the stories around it are wild. Then a film student, Spike Lee made an unofficial video starring Laurence Fishburne. Some releases were credited to Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel; it was an attempt to trade on Flash's name despite him having absolutely nothing to do with the recording. Oh, and the whole thing was a note for note rip of Cavern by Liquid Liquid.

That's right. No sampling of basslines or drum breaks, the Sugar Hill crew instead got a bunch of session musicians to re-record the entire song, and then used it as a backing track. So here's the original, with that amazing syncopated bass in its natural environment, surrounded by sparse percussion and full of vital menace. From the 1983 Optimo EP, it's an underground dancefloor essential.

Liquid Liquid - Cavern
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Dec. 5th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Alice Donut - Where Is My Mind

Uncomplicated enjoyment is the name of the game with this instrumental version of the Pixies song. Alice Donut light up the tune, and Stephen Moses' trombone takes the place of a vocal line. Stained glass punk from the band's 2009 album Ten Glorious Animals.

Alice Donut - Where Is My Mind
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Dec. 4th, 2018

cyberinsekt

Half Man Half Biscuit - King of Hi-Vis

Is it possible for our news media to stop trying to paint Emmanuel Macron as a centrist? The guy's economic policies are a hard-right embrace of austerity, a cruel slashing of state benefits, and ever increasing tax breaks for corporations. He's like the human version of George Osborne.

Anyway, the gilets jaunes have been all over the news of late, and the nation has been collectively disappointed by the BBC's translation of this as yellow jackets. What a lost opportunity when they could have be called the Kings of Hi-Vis, after the song by Half Man Half Biscuit. Here it is, in all of its jaunty rockist anthemicism. It's a singalong tribute to hiding in plain sight, and blagging your way in anywhere courtesy of a fluorescent bib. From the 2011 classic CSI: Ambleside.

Half Man Half Biscuit - King of Hi-Vis
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Dec. 3rd, 2018

cyberinsekt

Laurie Anderson - Born, Never Asked

Do you ever go on one of those deep musical dives where you completely lose your bearings? You come back up to the surface, and you have no idea where you are, or what sounds you loved? It must be 20 years since I last listened to Laurie Anderson's Big Science (1982) and it sounds like waking from a dream. Here is Born, Never Asked, a song full full of wit, grace and mystery. Listening to it, you may want to believe that those things are in you, too. I hope they are.

Laurie Anderson - Born, Never Asked
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Dec. 2nd, 2018

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Ste McCabe - Queer Clubbing

Oh you do love a good stereotype, don't you? You love the gays, because they are without exception utterly fabulous. And they're so far ahead on all of the fashion trends. The hi-energy disco music they love, nothing goes better with a bit of amyl than that. They're all so sharp and witty.

Reclaiming the word "queer" was an ultimately futile cause. It started as a way to dig out a bit of non-conformity within the LGB community. It wasn't about dressing up. It was for people who saw through cattiness and diva worship to the misogyny on the other side. It was unashamedly radical, mocking of its own self-seriousness.

And then of course it got recognised and glamourised. Ste McCabe was a mouthy working class gay lad when he wrote Queer Clubbing from the album Hate Mail (2008). It's a hate fuck for the Manchester gay scene, and the finest pop-punk the city had produced since the Buzzcocks days.

Ste McCabe - Queer Clubbing
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Dec. 1st, 2018

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Buddy Knox - I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself

Buddy Knox was born in the town of Happy, Texas, which tells you more than you ever needed to know. He burst onto the scene in 1957 singing well-laundered rock'n'roll pop music. A few years earlier and he'd have been a singing cowboy with a surgical smile. That makes I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself all the more baffling, for you can hear that smile as Knox sings about his suicide and funeral. It's one of the most bizarrely incongruous performances ever. Never mind another era, his cheerful banality sounds like something from another world.

Buddy Knox - I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself
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Nov. 30th, 2018

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Parkay Quarts - Content Nausea

Sometimes when the members of Parquet Courts aren't being Parquet Courts, they are instead being Parkay Quarts, an entirely different band. Obviously. And when I say sometimes, I mean briefly during 2014. That was when their album Content Nausea was released, and its title track is a stone cold killer. It's Black Angel's Death Song updated for the modern era, taking in the culture wars and social media, influencers and information overload. It's a three minute gallop and it's fucking furious.

Parkay Quarts - Content Nausea
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Nov. 29th, 2018

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Pink Fairies - Do It

Pink Fairies were perhaps the quintessential free festival band of the 1970s. If you liked a bit of anarchy, peace and love to go with your party keg, they would be there for you. Here's their standout song, the acid rock ode to praxis, Do It. They were loved by both hippies and punks and 100% bullshit free. Can't ask for more than that. From their 1971 album Never Never Land.

Pink Fairies - Do It
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Nov. 28th, 2018

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John Fahey - Dance Of The Inhabitants Of The Palace Of King Philip XIV Of Spain

In its original form John Fahey's Dance Of The Inhabitants Of The Palace Of King Philip XIV Of Spain is a perfect little gem. It's precisely modulated and filled with slide guitar lines that slot deftly into place. It's a watchmaker's tune.

But that's not how he played it for live audiences. Here he is from 1973 playing at the University of Washington, and it has expanded to more than three times its original length. Gone is the metronomic precision, rather he starts hesitantly, seeing how much sound is needed to fill the room. Its reverb is precisely tested, and then he starts to fill the air with noise. The mathematical logic of the original is replaced with constant testing. It obeys no rules save those of performance, and it's absolutely masterful.

John Fahey - Dance Of The Inhabitants Of The Palace Of King Philip XIV Of Spain
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