Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Steve Gunn - S/T Cdr

on Abandon Ship Records

This is a solo outing for GHQ man Steve Gunn. Spooky sepia cover aside, the music is mostly quiet and acoustic with some subtle electric splashes. The playing is sublimely understated and bristling with a craft that’s positively enriched by the crystal clear recording. It may not move mountains, but it’s refreshing when the music just glows warmly in your head instead of blowing through it.

Young Subjects sounds not dis-similar to Hush Arbors, with that sparky guitar work thrown over a dronic hum, everything churned around in a pleasing circular motion. Steve seems to have a percussive style of playing here, full of accent jangles and edgy dips that literally makes me all a tingle. A secondary layer of banjo is worked over the top, softening the activity underneath, creating a kinetic schism to which an electric guitar further excites the senses, widening perspectives. A musical jigsaw of layers, closed shut with a simple acoustic refrain.

For Tyrone Hill has a far gentler pace compared with the opener, plenty of pregnant reflective pauses, the sharp chord switches carving things up a bit, adding drama, leaving you hanging on each phrase. A circular current takes it off in a different direction, then returns it back to more sluggish waters… a string scrape sweep ending the track.

Jerone and Jimi Chaplin starts with a muted percussive strum, all metallic tacked echo, like feet slapping water. A vague eastern flavour creeps on through, further expanded when the the banjo works around this in tidy arabesques.

Love the Nay reed aesthetics on the closing Two of Ammon... that distant Egyptian or Turkish vibe seemingly carried over from the previous track … wholesome guitar cycles slip into the foreground, a sound in which you can visualise the fingers, as the improvised tune develops, as if the notes were forming themselves – a nice balance of the swirling and sporadic. This is then expanded on with some electric guitar interceptions that slide all over the acoustic work, all quicksilver shimmer. Some vocalising/harmonising between Heidi Diehl (of WW&VV) and Steve Gunn subtly breaches the proceedings, with the electric guitar shining like a Floyd solo, full of Gilmore flourishes. Suddenly, the aperture closes then opens afresh in rolls of strings that catch the light beautifully; you’ll just have to imagine my disappointment as everything is cast back to an Egyptian textural fade out... give me moooorrrreeee i scream...

...Haven’t heard anything from GHQ, but if the playing is as good as this I’m sure to love them dearly.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tunnels - Astral Collage

on Abandon Ship Records

Tunnels - Astral Collage

That Amon Duul-like liquid light, oily gel projection vibe of the cover really fits well with the percussive shapes and effects colourations going on inside. Firstly, those tabla echoes grab all your attention as they fall through that drone warble; gorgeously sustained. Then cymbal clashes and flecks of thunder increase the aural atmospherics, a woodblock semaphore breaking through periodically like a psychic woodpecker. Later, a drifting keyboard full of twilight warmth softens the focus on the preceding mysticism, opening itself out in lovely choral fragmentations.

Genesis Hall is all ceremonial rain-sticks and back peddling, almost elliptical guitar, A tune, seemingly in its infancy struggles away under a yawning, deeply echoic vocal, all expansively stretched - its warped reflections and moans as if from a differing dimension…

The third track is a tribal tape loop, a repetitive chant caught in a clattering foreground ...China is being piled in a box, now the cutlery... The boundaries becoming nicely blurred... The high end debris blending with the undulating vox in a salaciously trippy way... loose percussion filtered through the outskirts...

Golden Twigs is a folksy strum with reedy inflections, a medieval intermission of large patterned skirts caught in a summer breeze…

Order of the Golden Dawn
is full of lovely and circular guitar strings, the finger work mutating with every repeated phrase, loosely fitting with a unhurried tambourine…. A growing dronal underbelly floats on by, almost unnoticed, grass curling round the toes until everything is gradually thrown over to it in an excess of saturation – a few discernable flecks catch your attention, like flapping insects ensnared in white emulsion blow out...

The vision And The Voice by contrast, is all hushed dronal progression with slivers of guitar, gentle slopes and loose percussion, things that are gradually bent outa shape, very subtly, like falling water through foliage…

The final track white stains clinches the deal for me, instantly bringing to mind Loop’s heady excesses. That distinctive guitar jab/oscillation and numbed drum combo lighting my head up beautifully. A slightly menacing vocal rubs against this, sounding like something that would have happily fitted onto Labradford’s majestic Prazision.

What a blinding finish to a rich and rewarding listen, full of time bending magickal detail and optimistic rainbows.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Birth Canal Blues over London

Baby Dee, Marc Almond, Anthony(minus the Johnsons), Sebastian Horsley and Current 93 - Queen Elizabeth Hall, London - Monday 21st April

Baby Dee’s solo set was really marvellous, her voice full of bawdy passion and operatic sweeps, moving from harp to piano with ease… boy she could really bang those ivories. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never heard her material until tonight, but I shall make amends for that soon enough…

A 60’s – 70’s love song(?), skewered by a sinister drone underlay, started Current 93’s show. It grew in intensity as the band graced the stage, the painted tree backdrop slowly transfiguring it’s colours… as the band launched into ‘The last persecution’… The music, a swollen ocean, round Tibet’s incensed delivery, Maja Elliott playing with the piano insides, everything propelling the whole….What a start!

This was followed by dramatic re-works of the 'Black Ships' material – words scattered through repetitive tunings, crashing piano, fleshy musicality… The studio album was beginning to sound stark by comparison. Tibet dancing the stage, skipping to Armageddon…

Somewhere in the proceedings, Anthony, minus the rest of the band did a blinding rendition of Soft Black Stars on the piano, his iridescent phrasing melting luxuriously.

Back with Current 93 - The new material started all tender narration, mountains, star filled faces - all to light rolling piano cycles. Suddenly, it went all vicious… hammered instrumentation, over which Tibet, part gurgling, part screaming MURDERRRRR, OHHH, MUR-DEEEEEER ‘MURRRDDDDDERRRRR YOU!’ his voice a ferocious attack through a blissful overloaded music, all feedback hell, the talons of which crawled, scraped at your ear, Tibet continuing to gnaw over the words as Mr Liles transecting them with bursts of demonic electricity, Baby Dee smashed into the piano keys with concrete fists, the three (or was it four) guitarists all gnarly strings and driven circles… Joolie Wood literally sawing into her violin ………….. This was fucking superb, a deeply psychotic excursion that luckily seemed to go on for ever, zealously abandoned….

After a few more songs, Tibet was looking the worse for wear, coming across all wobbly, staggering about the stage slightly pissed…

About half-way through, the show was given up to Marc Almond with guitar backing from Michael Cashmore. First up his take on the hymn ‘Idumaea’, then two stunning Count Stenbock poems, his swan like arms flowing on round the words in operatic flourishes .. What a showman. 'Gabriel' was just superb, almost like a forgotten Soft Cell classic especially on the repeated chorus. Pity the EP wasn’t for sale on the night…

Well, after Marc, everything gets a bit hazy in the recollection, I really should have written this down, but I think Current 93 returned for a few more songs, Tibet, having downed a fair quantity of wine, was equally hazy as he stumbled round the music, intersecting it with vocals abstracts. The intensity didn’t let up at all… even when at one point Tibet collapsed to the floor, head in hands, the music still rose around him thunderously …but when they all left the stage, I really thought it was all over…

The audience went crazy for more…

Appeasing the crowd, a lone singer returned to the stage… I’ve no idea who he was but he possessed some really crazy vocal dynamics that threw up lots of laughs and what the fucks? along the way…. Then Tibet, along with his long time school friend Sebastian Horsley who was resplendently dressed all comic Dickensian started up some vocal action. Their duet seemed partly improvised, a spoken / sung duality where everything seemed to be spiralling gloriously out of control to the repeated lines - a dandy in the underworld, Tibet relishing in the pronouncing of his words, giving the words Sebaaaasstiann Whoreeeesleyy a sick distended vibe, his friend sometimes echoing those spoken, at other times throwing up new decadent embellishments, both parties circling around each other as the rest of the band slowly returned to the stage...

Tibet seemed really wasted at this point, wandering the stage, intoxicated. But it wasn’t over yet…. As they launched into the unmistakable classic ‘oh, coal black smith’… to which Tibet terrorised the front row with his grotesque animal impressions, literally shrieked the songs lyrics… Joolie Wood’s recorder, shooting out the song’s nursery codex… a tune that was bouncing in our heads all the way across the Thames and back down the M4...

A remarkable night.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Anok Pe

Crikey, it’s been six years since I last saw Current 93 live and this Monday I’m off to re-fire the experience as they draw their ‘Anok Pe’ tour to a close. Personally, I’m really looking forward to hearing the new stuff… and secretly hoping for some of the remnants of the Russian shows to be still clinging to Tibet’s shirt tails.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

my head's climbing those silver stairs again

...Those drum taps had a warm 'heart monitor' vibe, as they dripped through like melted plastic, slow n luxurious full of delayed ebb... Everything was serene; an esoteric exercise in capture and release as Charlie constantly fed the mix with more ingredients, alternating between guitar, violin and chant. At one point everything was full of tribal respiration, flirting with slightly noisier perspectives, at others, all Georgian or Madrigal, those harmonising poly-spirals of voice feeding off each other, making gorgeous shivers across the psyche. A ghosting of language, all distant, tapping into something ancient, cryptic yet remaining vulnerable, like just breathing would shatter it all… Invada really need to release this girl’s work like yesterday...

In finality

Reverse is perverse everything is bacccckwaaaards...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brighton Rocks

Just got back from spending a few days at the seaside. Plenty of wandering around and lying back on the rocks, making peacock feathers of the sun whilst the kids skimmed stones across the breakers. Simple pleasures you tend to take for granted… The blue sky a rash of wings and war-cries… The pier a distant beatbox. Squinting into the universe of patterns, scattered around… imagining them blown up - all those geological birthmarks larger than life… made the crawl round the M25 worthwhile.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lubriphikatttor - Anal Magic CDr

Lubriphikatttor - Anal Magic CDr

That data-scrawl Lubriphikatttor were supplying on their recent split with the Cousins of Reggae really peaked my interest, those KK Null dentist drill sensibilities they were throwing out left me hankering for more… what could they do if given more space?

So slapping five Euros on the ‘Galerie Pache’ counter I got my grubbies on this full-lengther from the boys, and I’m chuffed to report there’s plenty of pleasing poly-chromatic abstractions a flowing throughout. Clocking in at just a smidgen short of 50 minutes it’s a real bargain. With a few unexpected quieter moments along the way, balancing out some of the noisier excesses and homing your attention to the details in both…

The CDr starts off in the hush of static - a concoction of ripped nylon, hydraulic calipers and chirping electronics wrapped in a fuzzy carrier. There’s this snake charm of a tune (which gels well with the cover) all scissored edges as something electrical gnaws at the periphery. A treetop chorus is circling around like an electro-magnetic aviary and you can feel the chaos building. Soon enough it’s tearing a way through everything; the melody, a sacrificial lamb to screaming skull destruction…. then cropped suddenly to a yodel-like, Kalahari bushman ending - a quiet ear wash readying you for the second course.

Track two starts with some circuit bending in a bath of battery acid, limbs trashing around, vivid splashes in a tunnel of razors, an excavation in sporadic sparks of gnarly guitar grafted to an atonal drill squeal. The damage is substantial, the debris littering the place in foul squirts and spirals, all those agitated shapes, and colours fighting for your attention.

By comparison the third track is as close to semi-ambient Lubriphikatttor come, although they can’t resist adding some trademark anxiety to the mix during the tracks epic 18 minutes. It starts, with a minimal Mego type tap-dance of shuffled sandpaper over an electrocute spit / skip.

There’s a secondary data smudge propping up that spectre of a beat, with guitar/machine intentions sinisterly shadowing the game, praying for an opportunity to expand the scenery. - A siren warbles behind the glitchiness then it's flung forefront, heralding a creeping petri-dish of ugliness - all close up, itchy, full of cybernetic howling.

This in turn flips out of focus in favour of some subverted ambience…. purring away on a bed of slow burning textures … all twitchy… the odd discordant bleep let over to some lovely Pterodactyl-like cries trapped in a wing flap hex, spacey UFO oscillations spinning over its reptilian skin….

This is quickly cast back into a grinding corkscrew of valve filth and squiggles of knotted data – injections of beat struggle a two-step jig amongst it all. Drowned in a screw-fit melody of different tones … somebody’s sanding the table down while a drill slides greasily through the legs.

Those wing flap textures make a come back over more valve flutter, fucked keyboards limp off into the sunset, a jumble of innards - all picked apart and sizzling… tonal chasms fall over a cutlery rummage then badly tuned radio following a muted fallout ending.

Phew, quite a journey.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Kassette Kulture #12- Arklight - Set Up on Different Crosses

from epicenesound

The beats here have a scary rattling window aesthetic… or are they guitars? I honestly can’t tell… Everything’s getting louder, more distorted as those Arklight boys work up some steam. Intermittently, vocal wails break through the cacophony as the canvas is filled up in hard-edged scratchiness. Wiry tendrils scrape the paint off the walls in nasty chunks, becoming amplified thickets rubbing each other up the wrong way… right until the freight train brakes are applied and everything is transformed into a sludge of slowing apparatus.

A lone siren starts off the second track closely followed by loose drum malfunction and a few random strings, and then the fun starts all over again as a circus of drum machines spew up their guts – feeding you a raw diet of berserko-beat ratio and fire crackers. Guitars ricochet off the skips, thuds and broken clattering; briefly the distorted cries of sirens become mutant bag pipes, then they disappear into the scuffle of agitated boots giving somebody a real kicking... those hi-hats are whipping like hail, everything is shuddering in a ziggurat of amp skuzz.

The second side starts with a fairly structured beat, bracketed by some pleasing metallic after-shocks, until it’s plunged into a sleet of needle-like percussion. Loving that rot of thrown guitars, that aesthetic of a thousand shattering mirrors, or is it the infinite sound of mouse traps snapping shut? – An electronic fracas gouging its way over the top, dragging its bony knuckles.

For the final track, the beats randomly fire off; while a countdown is dribbling in the background. Repetition, then calculation, a hungry device clanks around impatiently. Suddenly guitar mayhem falls from the skies, setting everything alight in a mangled choreography. Guitars stumble around in tune asphyxiation, rubbing in opposites.

Looking at the cover, it’s as if all that noise Arklight are throwing at you has been translated into the image. A Madonna surrounded by a junkyard of rotten crosses, as the dirty and haphazard noise wraps your head like a pack of muzzled dogs chasing their tails. All too briefly, an oasis of echoed smashing / clanking opens up - a reprieve cut short, as an angle poised grinder flips in/out of the counter’s slow demise. Fret Hammers close the curtains, a cloak of dust still gripping the air.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Kassette Kulture #11 - David Payne / Panagiotis Spoulos Split C30

Side one, by David Payne (fossils) is full of wobbling echoes, clattering mouthwash aesthetics and the wet creaks of cylindrical spillage. Somebody’s rifling through drawers, shifting junk around, occasionally soaking it all in echo and fx’s blurs, like a pig rolling in sonic mud, sticky ripples working out from the epicentre all distended. Similar to Hal Rammel’s electro-acoustic work, this leaves tactile shadows pleasantly knocking around my skull for ages.

Panagiotis’s side is guitar string shimmer, hovering multiples falling over each other in echoed exposures. Twilight bird abstracts brought into focus with the jangle of the pick-ups, high end chimes that have a vague Javanese flavour. Light, blues-like touches, subtly transfer into a sketched minimalism of riffage and hard-edged spurring, effectively switching the perspective towards some mutant Bollywood soundtrack (easy on the chillies) ending abruptly in jack plug crackle...

...lovely stuff

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Kassette Kulture #10 - 6majik9 - Sinister kindness

60 min cassette on Abandon Ship Records

Imagine if you will, an abandoned house somewhere; tall ceilings, a large open fire place where somebody has managed to get a roaring log fire going. In front of it, facing away, an assembly of various drums, though not many, a couple of cymbals, a bell or two, maybe a biscuit tin.

The drums are lit by the fire and a drummer sits with his back to the fire. Some power has been channelled into the room, enough for a couple of guitars and maybe some electronics. These are facing the drums and are lit from behind by candles. Somebody has told the drummer that for the next hour people will be coming through the room making noises and he has to roll with it, steady the ship so to speak.

Imagine this and you are part way to enjoying the sweaty, narcotic vibe 6majik9 have laid down on this cassette. The drums are the glue that binds the sprawling and eclectic set together. There aren’t too many and they certainly don’t rush, they veer from death march, through Haitian voodoo, barely there feathered cymbal to loose arrhythmic textures. The drums are mainly accompanied by manipulated guitar and extraneous noises.

Each of the two sides are split into about three sections and the listener is taken on a variety of differing sonic journeys. Sometimes the guitars will frazzle and shriek with feedback shocks, at times they sound like rusty train couplings, grumbling and groaning.

For one section the guitars sound like jet fighters dive-bombing and strafing the ancient locomotive drums as they wend their weary way through a barren land. Electronics aid the aural firestorm and in some respects the atmosphere developed brings to mind the slow-burning visceral assault of Physics, the drums fighting their way across the rails through the hail of noise.

The tracks don’t build to a particular crescendo or anything, each is an obvious progression from the previous, although the final chapter is a looser more fluid free finale, the rhythm held by a clicking sound, honking sax and subtle clarinet lending a campfire air to proceedings as the drums go from cavernous to feather-light and then it’s hard to believe the side is over and an hour has passed.

6majik9 have produced an engrossing and ultimately very satisfying aural tapestry which unfolds at a sedate enough rate to be able to pick out all the little ingredients. Only 100 cassettes produced apparently, but I would urge them to make more, as this needs to be heard by so many more people. Those who wish for atmospheric adventure on a cassette can look no further.

by Mr Olivetti