Sunday, July 26, 2009
Shrouded in the mystery and the opaque, otherworldly quality we've come to expect from the consistently remarkable Miasmah imprint, this beguiling debut album has been wrecking our collective heads here in the office for some time. Pieced together from a plethora of unidentified samples, field recordings and found sounds, Kreng taps into a unique, almost indescribable corner of the musical universe that originates from, and proceeds to completely re-imagine, the world of music for film and theatre. The eleven pieces here were, indeed, originally made for a variety of theatre productions and retain that illusory quality that's so often associated with arts-based music, but without any of the site-specific pretension or impenetrability that you'd think goes hand hand in with this kind of material. There's an intensely overbearing darkness to this work, covered by a dense thicket of layered drones and fuzzy sound recordings, but as each piece progresses narrow cracks begin to emerge, letting in shards of colour and light painted through fragments of jazz and classical music re-painted in shimmering, luxurious colours. It's very hard to think of any singular points of reference, but there are elements here that remind us of György Ligeti, Cliff Martinez, Moondog, Arvo Pärt, Arthur Lipsett, Deathprod, Bernard Herrmann and Dictaphone - while really sounding very little like any of them. "L'Autopsie Phénoménale De Dieu" is an incredible, utterly mesmerising collection of pieces that we have little doubt will entice, seduce and terrify you in equal measure and, needless to say, comes to you with our highest possible recommendation. ESSENTIAL
Monday, July 20, 2009
Cat Stevens virtually disappeared from the British pop scene in 1968, at the age of 20, after a meteoric start to his career. He had contracted tuberculosis and spent a year recovering, from both his illness and the strain of being a teenage pop star, before returning to action in the spring of 1970 -- as a very different 22-year-old -- with Mona Bone Jakon. Fans who knew him from 1967 must have been surprised. Under the production aegis of former Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith, he introduced a group of simple, heartfelt songs played in spare arrangements on acoustic guitars and keyboards and driven by a restrained rhythm section. Built on folk and blues structures, but with characteristically compelling melodies, Stevens' new compositions were tentative, fragmentary statements that alluded to his recent "Trouble," including the triviality of being a "Pop Star." But these were the words of a desperate man in search of salvation. Mona Bone Jakon was dominated by images of death, but the album was also about survival and hope. Stevens' craggy voice, with its odd breaks of tone and occasional huskiness, lent these sometimes sketchy songs depth, and the understated instrumentation further emphasized their seriousness. If Stevens was working out private demons on Mona Bone Jakon, he was well attuned to a similar world-weariness in pop culture. His listeners may not have shared his exact experience, but after the 1960s they certainly understood his sense of being wounded, his spiritual yearning, and his hesitant optimism. Mona Bone Jakon was only a modest success upon its initial release, but it attracted attention in the wake of the commercial breakthrough of its follow-up, Tea for the Tillerman.