Monday, April 23, 2007
When asked by Fact magazine whom he would sign if “money grew on trees,” Norse-disco master Prins Thomas answered, “Bjorn Torske” (if he could pull him out of his cave).
Despite his popularity (with Prins Thomas and others), the highly sought-after Norseman has not released an album since 2001’s Trobbel (Telle). Now, after six years, Torske is stepping out of his proverbial cave with Feli Knapp, set for release on Smalltown Supersound. Part Castlevania soundtrack, part future-dub-disco voyage, Torske’s new long-player is a step away from the melodic cosmic disco we’ve come to expect from Norway’s stomping ground (which includes Prins Thomas, Lindstrøm, Todd Terje, etc.
Taking influences from long-running multimedia collective The Residents and Rasta mystic Count Ossie, Torske fuses chirpy synth leads and manic live drumming for a spacey sound he’s patented as his own brand of dance music. The magic man is also hard at work with remixes for fellow disco purveyor Lindstrøm and experimentalists Sunburned Hand of the Man. Also check his series of singles on the acclaimed house label SVEK, plus tour dates, and remixes of many of the aforementioned acts.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Glen Johnson is probably the most important figure to emerge from the British indie music scene since My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. His gift for haunting lyricism, arrangement, and production is unparalleled in any area of music today. With Low Birth Weight, Johnson's Piano Magic, an everchanging collective of musicians performing bits and pieces of his decadent vision, has crafted a stunning work of orchestral rock with the littlest (and cheapest) of gear. The beauty of the record lies specifically in its simple songcraft and production. Like Shields, Johnson spends inordinate amounts of time in the studio eliminating the smallest flaws that might compromise his otherworldly creations. Johnson melds the heavenly vocals of collaborators Caroline Potter, Simon Rivers, and Raechel Leigh with sparse, echoed guitar, subtle drum machine clicks, electronic scribbles, and chirpy children's toys. Low Birth Weight seems oddly English in that it romanticizes working class life so as to make it beautifully painful; listeners may get the feeling that the record's title is deeply rooted in one of Johnson's intensely painful experiences. Johnson illustrates a great deal of understanding and an ability to create a touching picture from the most undesirable occurrences. Also interesting is the fact that Johnson never mouths a word on the record; his involvement is strictly instrumental and that, in itself, reveals a certain detachment from the music. He maintains a great emotional distance while still weaving beautiful and depressing tales, as the musicians become Johnson's playthings, bringing his damaged emotions to life.ken taylor
Is it possible for an album to consist entirely of those post-orgasmic moments of your last coitus as a couple, those moments of depression when you know that the relationship is, indeed, finally, over? They've already dumped you, yet decided to give you one last quick mercy-screw? Apparently it is, because Matt Elliott has done exactly that, with his album, The Mess We Made.
The Sand and the Stars, the fourth full-length release by Bristol's Movietone, is literally a musical journey, taking the players from the beach to the city and finally ending up "on a coast path, illuminated by a lighthouse." Movietone continue with their intensely delicate music, but this time around the shimmering music seems to be more intimate, more organic, and closer to the listener in sonic space than the atmospherics of Day & Night and Blossom Filled Streets -- elements that may be due to the locations of recording. The production by Matt Jones is a bit more aggressive than Movietone's other works, but still captures that heart-wrenching quality of Movietone through the instrumentation and wonderful vocal work. Melancholy like all of their records, Kate Wright's wonderful vocals haunt against the acoustic instruments playing off one another. A communal, dark campfire vibe shines through on "Pale Tracks," where Sam Jones, Matt Jones, Kate Wright, and Rachel Coe all have vocal duties and sing with the swirling nature of the music. "We Rode On" and "Snow Is Falling" are Movietone at their best, using various instruments like clarinet, cello, banjo, bass saxophone, trumpet, double bass, drums, and guitar set against wave samples in the background, creating a chilling environment. "Near Marconi's Hut" rounds out the record, leaving the listener with a sadness that The Sand and the Stars is over and a longing for more from Movietone. The Sand and the Stars is another wonderful release from Movietone, keeping you in the imagery of a movie you saw a long time ago or a dream that you cannot shake from your memory.
Here are a couple of handy comparison points to make when trying to impress bohemian friends with your knowledge of Movietone: Robert Wyatt's gentle, English prog-folkiness; the free-jazz inflections of Movietone's fellow Bristol experimentalists Flying Saucer Attack, Crescent, and Third Eye Foundation; St Etienne, if they'd ever spent time on the windswept, static streets of Chicago; the seductive humor of Jacques Tati's films, all blurred and snapped again through an antique Brownie camera; and seagulls hovering over the broken pier on Brighton front. The Blossom Filled Streets is an apt description for this most bewitching of mood-creators: every last echoed guitar chord and faraway horn resonates with the sound of England's backwater towns. No track should be picked out--as soporific and surprising as "1930s Beach House" and "In a Marine Light" are--because the whole is a seamless soundscape, the soundtrack to a movie that just doesn't need to be made. --Everett True
Even the cover is a winner, with a washed-out look that screams new wave via horn-rimmed glasses, even more so than contemporaneous pictures of either Elvis Costello or the Embarrassment. But if it was all look and no brain, Crazy Rhythms would long ago have been dismissed as an early-'80s relic. That's exactly what this album is not, right from the soft, haunting hints of percussion that preface the suddenly energetic jump of the appropriately titled "The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness." From there the band delivers seven more originals plus a striking cover of the Beatles' "Everybody's Got Something to Hide" that rips along even more quickly than the original. The guitar team of Mercer and Million smokes throughout, whether it's soft, rhythmic chiming with a mysterious, distanced air or blasting, angular solos. But Fier is the band's secret weapon, able to play straight-up beats but aiming at a rumbling, strange punch that updates Velvet Underground/Krautrock trance into giddier realms. Mercer's obvious Lou Reed vocal inflections make the VU roots even clearer, but even at this stage of the game there's something fresh about the work the quartet does, even 20 years on -- a good blend of past and present, rave-up and reflection. When the group's later label, A&M, finally got around to reissuing the album for the first time stateside, a curious bonus was included: a version of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black," recorded by the later lineup of the band in 1990. Mercer's voice is noticeably different from his decade-old self, but it's an enthusiastic rendition not too far out of place.
If IDM is meant for coming down after a night of dancing to trance or house, then Fahrenheit Fair Enough is surely the sort of ambient bliss suited for bedtime. These electronic pieces are big on heavenly synth tones, while light breakbeats (augmented by computerized blips) sputter around below. The acoustic guitar on "John Thomas on the Inside Is Nothing but Foam" lends a refreshing organic element to the mix, fitting comfortably within the breakbeats. Fahrenheit Fair Enough borders on IDM and drum'n'bass at times but, for the most part, it's a soothing listen and one that'll bring you down gently.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
DEMOS FALL 2006
In the City
At the River
The Price of Love
Hands in the Dark
Shining Violence (Reprise)
This recording is designed to be played in digital stereo.
Between the midnite hour and the break of dawn.
Color Wheel amazes, with a sonic dexterity unmatched in drone-metal or any other music for that matter. On their 4th proper full-length, Growing have gallantly ventured into uncharted territory, where sheets of noise meld with metallic noodling and blissfully numbing drones, displaying their penchant for exploratory electronic manipulations that move at the speed of the sun. If you're planning a trip to space, it�d be smart to throw this in with your protein-pack.
Crescent first came to light in the mid-‘nineties, emerging from within the small but incredibly vibrant Bristol post-rock scene that orbited around the tiny Planet Records label and included artists such as Flying Saucer Attack, Movietone, Third Eye Foundation, Amp, and Foehn. Intensely creative whilst individually quite distinct, these artists shared both an attitude of collective independent energy and a desire to piece music together in new ways. Currently a four-piece with occassional outside contributors, Crescent includes members of both Movietone and Flying Saucer Attack.
Far from prolific, Crescent’s few releases have appeared sporadically and with very little fanfare. Although they have been active for nearly 10 years, this is in fact only their fourth album. From the shambling, lo-fi rage and sprawl of their earlier recordings on Planet, to their experiments with tape loops and electronics (‘Electronic Sound Constructions’, released on Domino imprint, Snapshot in 1997), the band have increasingly refined their craft whilst remaining true to their own idiosyncratic takes on production and recording techniques. Released in 2000 on Bristol label Swarf Finger, ‘Collected Songs’ was a stunning album (one of our favourite albums of that year) yet still managed to pass almost entirely under the media radar.
On ‘By The Roads…’, the occassional raw, explosive violence of previous recordings is reigned in almost entirely, replaced with a collection of songs that unfurl slowly and recall points from John Fahey to The Velvet Underground, Galaxie 500 to Hood, Joy Division, Pram, Moonshake and, of course, Movietone. Whilst some of the lyrical content suggests an almost mediteranean warmth and detail, there remains something utterly English and very pastoral about the album.
Notes, tones and beats weave and roll across one another as throughout, the album displays a rich depth and loving attention to detail – small, scattered percussive barbs and trails of tape delay; chaotic drunken piano stabs; sprawling saxaphone coils poking through the gaps and frayed edges of the song. Tactile and grounded in decay, with many songs framed by a rich fuzz of tape noise, this is a warm, human, fragile record, an honest music that openly admits environmental noise, human errors and idiosyncracies; that prefers a flawed live take delivered with feeling to the laboured-over surgically-precise construction of many modern recording practices. Matt Jones’s lyrical themes are similarly tactile, opening out a collection of sense-impressions and streams of thought – light, colours, sounds, the ability to live with decay and imperfection, to find interest and beauty not just in natural phenomena like the flowering countryside or a precise quality of daylight, but also in the built environment, in the worn, grey textures and surfaces of the everyday. Wandering the fields and the streets like a flaneur, life is observed with a situationist / existentialist eye, as Jones’ monotone catalogues a seemingly random slew of objects: flotsam / river debris or things left discarded on the street; remnants of wallpaper on a building where a house once stood; bright streets before anyone is awake…
‘By The Roads…’ was recorded onto 8 track tape with no budget in a variety of locations, including an artist-run cinema and their own bedrooms. The instrumentation employed stretches from a self-built double bass and prepared piano to clarinet, saxaphones, drums, guitar, assorted percussion, melodica, organ, copycat tape delays, metal bowls, and to the overlapping drones of bowed wine glasses that close the album.
The job title of DJ may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Erlend Øye. The singer, songwriter and indie pop star behind Kings Of Convenience has only owned a set of turntables for a few months, but despite all this, Erlend Øye the DJ is anything but a joke. With his compilation for the latest installment of the DJ-Kicks series, the Berlin-residing Norwegian not only redefines the DJ mix, but unleashes a monster set of leftfield party tunes as well.
In a certain way, Øye brings to mind DJ-Kicks alums like Kruder & Dorfmeister, however, where they enriched their mixes in the studio using dub effects, keyboard overlays and distortions, Erlend Øye takes to the microphone. Having re-sung nine songs for this mix, Erlend deftly blurs the line between a DJ mix and a full on artist album. Three of these are so far unreleased compositions of his own and the other six are cover versions of tunes by Elvis, Bananarama, Pet Shop Boys and others.
Erlend’s selection for his DJ-Kicks draws from the best of both the dance and rock worlds. NYC dance rockers The Rapture are here, as are French house heads Phoenix, Japanese quirk-rock master Cornelius and electronica stars Royksopp. While this type of eclecticism is a constant in the DJ-Kicks series, few have left as distinctive a mark on their mixes as Erlend Øye.