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May. 23rd, 2019

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Michael Pisaro - Ricefall

Much of the music of composer Michael Pisaro has a distinctive clarity to it. Whether he's writing for piano or sine waves or field recordings, his is music that the light shines through. I'm not really sure how his Ricefall fits with this.

It opens with silence. Rather an uncomfortable length of silence in fact, enough for any home listener to start checking cables and connections. But then a grain of rice falls onto an amplified surface, and then another and another. The rice falls onto ceramics and woods and metals and papers and leaves, and for a while we might almost stand a chance of identifying individual grains. And then the torrent starts.

What you have with Ricefall is the most devastating and accurate sonic representation of a rainstorm ever presented. If you've ever sat beneath canvas while rain and hail lashed around you you'll recognise the feeling of being sat inside this sort of performance. It's raw, elemental violence, and while there might be a break in the clouds part way through you don't get the light you've been so desperately seeking until right at the end. It's safe to come out now.

This recording comes from Håkon Stene's 2014 album Etude Begone Badum.

Michael Pisaro - Ricefall
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May. 22nd, 2019

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Colleen - Geometria Del Universo

It's been no time at all since we listened to Colleen on Doklands, but if you think that's going to stop us then clearly you don't know our appetite for post-classical bagatelles. Geometria del Universo is taken from the album The Weighing of the Heart (2013) and it's Cécile Schott playing solo viol. There's something distinctly rough and ancient about the timbre of her instrument, and the clashing resonances of body and strings, a sound from before mathematically perfect engineering methods. A plucked melody falls from her fingers; waits when she waits, hurries along when she hurries. If this really is the geometry of the universe, then reality is a deeply personal affair.

Colleen - Geometria Del Universo
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May. 21st, 2019

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Josef van Wissem - In Templum Dei

In Templum Dei is a track from the soundtrack to the film Only Lovers Left Alive. On it the lutenist van Wissem is joined by vocalist Zola Jesus who adds an eerie gloss to proceedings. I could tell you that I picked this track for its intimate production. I could tell you that I picked it for Jesus' air of distant menace. Both of those would be lies. I picked it because every second it plays I am convinced that it's about to turn into a cover of Hotel Calfornia. It is my curse, and maybe it is now yours.

Josef van Wissem - In Templum Dei
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May. 20th, 2019

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The Strange Boys - Heard You Want To Beat Me Up

On the subject of violence, here are the Austin quartet The Strange Boys. Their music has its roots in the primitive proto-garage rock of high school bands, with Ryan Sambol's tortured nasal falsetto crooning and maximal strumming. It swings so loose that it barely holds together, leaving gaping holes for the last 60 years of roll'n'roll to slip through. Heard You Want To Beat Me Up is almost quaint in its use of teen worries, a tiny world caught in a vast lens all heard through a knackered transistor radio. From the 2009 album The Strange Boys And Girls Club.

The Strange Boys - Heard You Want To Beat Me Up
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May. 19th, 2019

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Sleaford Mods - Fizzy

Can't believe we've never listened to Sleaford Mods here before. Fizzy comes from their 2013 album Austerity Dogs, and it's where Jason Williamson truly becomes Notts' angriest. "Fizzy" he barks over the ominous bass riff, naming the violence welling inside him at the thought of the song's piece of shit workplace manager. Caustic and threatening, music to steer well clear of if you see it walking towards you.

Sleaford Mods - Fizzy
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May. 18th, 2019

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Volcano The Bear - Spurius Raga

You can always rely on Volcano The Bear to bring you something you weren't expecting. Leicester's finest experimental rock quartet are known for their strong sense of theatre and love of spontaneity. Old songs wear out quickly and they need long fallow periods between bursts of creative activity. It's been 7 years since their last album, the 2012 release Golden Rhythm / Ink Music, but hopefully that's just them forgetting how much they resent each other and they'll be back soon.

From that album comes the glorious martial clash of Spurius Raga. It starts woozy and discordant, before a warm wet splash of sound that brings to mind a tambura. This is something that recurs throughout the intro, rescuing us each time from a particularly painful phase of dissonance. Excepting some drum parts it's not really raga-like, but when the swirl and the chaos meet each other in abandon it doesn't need to be. Joyfully imperfect.

Volcano The Bear - Spurius Raga
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May. 17th, 2019

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Laurence Crane - Riis

Laurence Crane is a British composer who has written some of the most significant works of late minimalism. One such is his 1995 piece Riis for electric organ, clarinet and cello. It's made from the sparest of materials and the simplest of intervals, but there always seems to be something pulsing away underneath the surface. It's been recorded several times; some versions are quite sombre but I love this version by the Norwegian ensemble Asamisimasa. It's filled with light and clarity, and in such perfect balance that the heaviest of weights can be moved with the deftest of touches. A gorgeous recording that has been known to bring tears to my eyes. From the 2016 album Sound of Horse.

Laurence Crane - Riis
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May. 16th, 2019

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Drinks - Corner Shops

Of all the bands to feature former members of The Fall, Drinks must be one of the best. Tim Presley provided guitar on Reformation Post TLC, a not especially successful release from 2007. Cut loose from Mark E Smith's apron strings he proves to be a far more interesting musician. In Drinks he teams up with Cate le Bon to make songs of sublime difference. If all it took to do this was to untether yourself from pop culture and forget everything you thought you knew about music everyone would be doing it. No, they've tapped into something far more distinctive, a sort of breezy atonal post-punk with guitars that plink and vocals that treat the world as a source of constant curiosity.

Corner Shops comes from the 2018 album Hippo Lite. It loves its abrasive self, and is so confident that you will too that the smile never leaves its face.

Drinks - Corner Shops
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May. 15th, 2019

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Otomo Yoshihide - Nintendo

Here's a track from Otomo Yoshihide's singular 1993 release The Night Before the Death of the Sampling Virus. It's 77 tracks of dense audio cut-ups, designed to be played using the new technology of CD shuffle play. Even better, form a listening party with your friends, each with a CD player and copy of the disc. Play everything at once.

Each track is named after a different technology brand, and each is centred around sung or spoken word sources. Nintendo's is both stern and angry, but also hidden beneath an atonal bass that sounds very much like a specific kind of radio interference. Between the voices and the uncertain structural nature of the other sound this fragment has a very distinct tension. Difficult and uncompromising stuff, though far less sonically challenging that some of Yoshihide's output.

Otomo Yoshihide - Nintendo
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May. 14th, 2019

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Saccharine Trust - We Don't Need Freedom

Time for some early '80s LA punk. Saccharine Trust were the duo of Jack Brewer and Joe Baiza, alongside a rotating crew of drummers and miscellaneous other musicians. They landed a spot on the SST roster, where they released their debut EP Paganicons in 1981. These days it's probably more sought after for the Raymond Pettibon cover or because Mike Watt produced it, but it's certainly worth checking out. We Don't Need Freedom might be a but clumsy (blame the drummer, it's what they all do) but the cheap treble thrash of Baiza's guitar is totally great.

Saccharine Trust - We Don't Need Freedom
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May. 13th, 2019

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Bersarin Quartett - Verflossen ist das Gold der Tage

Play this loud. Thomas Bücker records under the Bersarin Quartett name, and his music is generally considered ambient. And why not, it's got no drums and it sounds like slow sad strings. The thing is, ambient music is meant to exist in the background like wallpaper or furnishings. Verflossen ist das Gold der Tage doesn't do that. Instead has the sort of bass that grabs your entire ribcage and smiles ominously, like a particularly friendly gorilla. From the 2015 album III.

Bersarin Quartett - Verflossen ist das Gold der Tage
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May. 12th, 2019

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The Stroppies - All The Lines

If there's one constant in music it's that tastes change. Not just popular taste, but yours as well. Well, mine anyway. But just when I thought that jangling had forever left me behind, along come another bunch of darling indie kids to remind me that I'm not quite dead yet. In this case it's Melbourne band The Stroppies with their interlocking guitars, mile-long melodies and oh-so Australian vocals. All The Lines comes from their self-titled 2017 debut EP.

The Stroppies - All The Lines
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May. 11th, 2019

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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Allah Hoo Allah Hoo

In retrospect it was supremely odd that in the late 1980s and through the 1990s it was possible for record labels to successfully release albums of Sufi devotional music. Was it a phase we were all going through? Or was it that the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was at the peak of his power and no-one's heard the like since? That man had an amazing voice. It was muscular and deft, and listening to him was like watching a wrestler stop in his tracks to powerslam an opponent who was running the ropes.

Allah Hoo Allah Hoo was one of his most popular songs. Obviously some people are never going to want to listen to religiously inspired works, but if you can get past that then you can luxuriate in the bright strings and rolling rhythms all wrapped up in that voice. Find this one on the 1992 album Devotional Songs.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Allah Hoo Allah Hoo
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May. 10th, 2019

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Tatsuya Nakamura - Song of "Pat"

Song of Pat (1976) is a great album of spiritual free jazz. Most of it is played as a quartet, but the title track is just Nakamura on drums and Richard Davis on bass. It's a deeply felt piece of music. I don't know how much was written and how much improvised, but it's the sort of performance that sounds like both guys were absolutely in the moment.

Nakamura is a pretty versatile drummer, but it's Davis' bass that really shines here. He was one hard working musician - you can hear him on hundreds of records from the '50s through to the '90s, and is probably best known for playing on Astral Weeks and Louis Armstrong's version of What A Wonderful World. It's great getting a chance to really break free, and his harsh high arco on today's track gets contrasted with some of the sweetest melodicism you've ever heard. When they fly loose it's great, but when they're restrained and give you time to hear them create it's amazing.

Tatsuya Nakamura - Song of "Pat"
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May. 9th, 2019

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Kikagaku Moyo - Dripping Sun

I've been listening to Japanese psyche rockers Kikagaku Moya for a few years now. While they always put on a great show they're seldom a band to truly suprise you. But Dripping Sun from their 2018 album Masana Temples might be their most innovative song to date. Kotsu Goy's bass is all over the track, imbuing it with a warmth and a surprisingly relaxed feel. He's found a really great tone. The band go from '70s funk rock to dreamy indie jazz pop to freak out and every single moment sounds fantastic. A lot of the credit has to go to producer Bruno Pernadas for his ability to bottle the sunshine. Really top notch stuff.

Kikagaku Moyo - Dripping Sun
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May. 8th, 2019

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Blyth Power - God Has Gone Wrong Again

I always loved the folk punk act Blyth Power. Loved the depth of history in their lyrics, loved their tunes, loved their attitude. Followed them for years, even as I got frustrated at the way they would re-use bits of old songs on new albums, or even just completely re-record things. I get the impulse to improve on the past, especially for a band with their concerns. Also I think publishers kept nicking their back catalogue from them, which must have really fucking stung. Still as a listener I'd get frustrated and want something entirely new. But then I'm the kind of guy who picks a different piece of music every day for years and writes about it, which I realise is not an entirely typical relationship with music.

Here's an old favourite. They recorded God Has Gone Wrong Again at least twice, but this 27 second a cappella version from Wicked Men, Wicked Women and Wicket Keepers (1986) is just about perfect. It sounds like a lost fragment from a heretical hymnal.

Blyth Power - God Has Gone Wrong Again
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May. 7th, 2019

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The Colorblind James Experience - Considering A Move To Memphis

If you're going to make a song about banality then you owe it to yourself and your audience to approach the subject clearly and coherently and without prejudice.

Just kidding, you should totally rip the shit out it.

Or you could do what the Colorblind James Experience did on Considering A Move To Memphis from their self-titled 1987 debut. With its spoken vocals (and spoken backing vocals) and its deliberately awkward stop/start rhythms, no one could accuse it of not being sufficiently quirky. Sure it's quirky, sure it's odd, but none of that is to be clever. It'd odd because people are odd, and if you're going to write a song about them all being odd together then you'd better bloody realise that just like everone else you're a bit odd. Even if to the outside you might look a bit, I dunno, suburban. Strangely affectionate experimental roots pop made with a rare humanity. One of the most singular songs of the 1980s.

The Colorblind James Experience - Considering A Move To Memphis
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May. 6th, 2019

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Writhing Squares - Balloon To The Moon

There's something weirdly anachronistic about Writhing Squares. The Philadelphia space rock duo of Daniel Provenzano (bass) and Kevin Nickles (sax, vocals) add earsplitting keyboards to the backbone of their sound, a colossally cheap sounding drum machine. That it works is a testament to their ability to carry a great tune, and that's never better than on the lengthy Balloon To The Moon from their 2016 release In The Void Above. Actually, to call it just one tune would be selling this short, as Nickles proves every time he embarks on another long melodic line. Raw and restlessly inventive.

Writhing Squares - Balloon To The Moon
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May. 5th, 2019

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Kyle Bobby Dunn - Cozen

Can't say I hold with the idea of music for relaxation. It's all a bit too close to those classical box sets you used to see advertised on TV, Your 101 Favourite Cosy Melodies or whatever. Still, there's something terribly soothing about the ambient drone music of Kyle Bobby Dunn. It's not something that's inherent to the genre, on the contrary this is sound that is painfully aware of its melancholy impact. No, rather it's because it's so polite about its presence: a soothing hand on a worried brow, gentle companionship at a deathbed. It's okay to not be okay. Cozen is taken from the 2007 release Six Cognitive Works.

Kyle Bobby Dunn - Cozen
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May. 4th, 2019

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The Fall - Who Makes The Nazis?

Going to be self-indulgent and post the Fall's Peel session version of Who Makes The Nazis? today. It's for no other reason than the impact it made on me hearing it at the time. The riff is played on a toy guitar, and I'd never encountered anything like it before. For the first time I heard music that I was actually financially able to emulate. In fact, I was fairly sure my kid brother had the exact guitar buried at the back of his wardrobe. It was a nylon-stringed uke with only two real strings. Each was looped around the bridge and fed back up the neck, with the loose ends going through a peg each. As such it was impossible to keep in tune, and it had been summarily dismissed. But over the radio I heard for the first time how that weakness could become - if not exactly a strength - then certainly an interesting artistic effect. I've been making do ever since.

The Fall - Who Makes The Nazis?
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