Monday, January 31, 2011

Black Mayonnaise - "TTSSATTRR" (2004, Emperor Jones)

Akron, Ohio's Mike Duncan should be given a key to the city. I applaud him for making the strangest music ever to come from an already strange musical landscape.

Hmm, so, how to describe this mess? Imagine you're bound and gagged in the trunk of a moving car. The couple bottles of robutussin your captors force-fed you are starting to take effect. The car subwoofers are violently vibrating the sounds of Sunn 0))) but the headphones they put on your ears are blasting Godflesh. The schizophrenia is full on and you'd really appreciate it if Grendel would stop poking you with that stick. When the hatch on this dark well is opened will you be greeted by aliens? Will they be friendly?

This is bowel-loosening lunar space sludge from some very twisted insomniac's bedroom. He probably still lives in his mom's basement. Does she know what he's building in there? And maybe she should check in on him once in a while. Jeesh.

Get It Here

Or: TTSSATTSR - Black Mayonnaise

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Virgin Prunes - A New Form of Beauty (1981, Rough Trade)

While Bono was making a name for himself as the leader of a Dublin teenage gang on O'connell Street, some of the other members were up to something that would be quite different than a world famous musical supergroup.

Before Gavin Friday was a slightly ridiculous Irish pop star, he founded The Virgin Prunes with Dik Evans (The Edge's brother) and Guggi. These kids weren't interested in the accessible sounds of the then current Post-Punk phenomenon.

The Virgin Prunes are darkness. This is ritualistic Goth, No Wave and sackcloth n' ashes sado-masochistic chants of sorrow. There is no hope here. These are mournful tomes and sarcastically religious themes of violence and death.

A New Form of Beauty was originally released as a series of three singles (7", 10" and 12") and was supposed to include a fourth release of a cassette but that never actually happened. Finally everything was released on an Italian version as a double album.

This is an underrated band that deserves its cult following. Many later Goth, Experimental and Pop fans included musicians from Coil and J.G. Thirlwell to Bjork and Trent Reznor.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gary War - Horribles Parade (2009, Sacred Bones)

I've been really impressed with Sacred Bones for a while now. The label is a great launching pad for many different branches of psychedelic experimental pop that really doesn't seem to fit anywhere else. And, wow, let me tell you, Gary War doesn't seem to fit anywhere at all. This Bedroom Psych weirdo wields a weapon of dark lo-fi grooves carved from synth and guitar with otherworldly warbly vocals that are as confusing as they are psychotic. It sounds like Gary Numan was actually the one who birthed the hybrid alien baby on the tv show "V" and that mutant freak was delivered by none other than Doctor Who assisted by Walter/Wendy.

Safe journeys, space fans.

Get It Here

Or: Horribles Parade - Gary War

Friday, January 28, 2011

Morton Feldman - Rothko Chapel and Why Patterns? (1971, New Albion Records)

When in the presence of the paintings of Mark Rothko one becomes consumed in space, light and indefinable presences. This is what he called "the numinous" (transcendence and floating). Listening to the subtle and reverent worlds of solitude created by Morton Feldman could be referred to as the same notion.

"Rothko Chapel" was first performed in 1972 at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, built in 1971 to house the fourteen paintings commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil. The Menils then asked Feldman to write a piece for the painter, who had died in 1970. Feldman had been a friend of Rothko's and one can hear in the music. Feldman says, in the notes accompanying this recording, that "Rothko's imagery goes right to the edge of his canvas, and I wanted the same effect in the music -- that it should permeate the whole octagonal-shaped room and not be heard from a certain distance."

Feldman's music echoes the simplicity of Rothko's imagery. Both are definitively mid-century American avant-garde, from what is the most fertile period in U.S. artistic history, and both are unique but somehow there is a great deal more there than just paintings or a piece of music.

This is gorgeous composition that incorporates sound as equally important as the music. Droning lines of minimal instrumentation and intermittently placed haunting choral vocals.

"Why Patterns?" is an half hour piece that demonstrates a use of musical lines. One Its a trio consisting of flute, glockenspiel and piano. There are three series of patterns for each instrument, that are never actually synchronized and only begin to work together toward the end of the piece.

The musicians are representative of the best ensemble playing and emanate the brilliant and ethereal virtues of one of the greatest American composers. Feldman's work is tuly moving and enlightening.

Get It Here

Or: Feldman: Rothko Chapel, Why Patterns? - California EAR Unit, UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus & Philip Brett

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sombres Forets - Quintessence (2006, Sepulchral)

One man Canadian BM band Annatar makes epic depressive odes to mother nature with characteristics of raw black metal and funeral doom. This is nothing too original or fascinating but its clear that he's genuine in his intent and his passion shines through every aspect of the recording. Fans of Xasthur, Abyssic Hate or Burzum may write this off at first listen but a couple tracks in, the misanthropy deepens and the anguished hooks and blood-curdling screams prevail. A particularly distinguishing element is his hypnotic use of keyboards and acoustic guitars which heighten the emotional content and help convey the forest-worshipping themes.

Again, not trying to sell the greatest Suicidal Depressive BM record ever here but its a very solid album that I thoroughly enjoy.

Get It Here

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Witchfinder General - Friends of Hell (1983, Heavy Metal Records)

This NWOBHM band from Stourbridge was formed in 1979 and it was only after their demise that they gained notoriety as being pioneers of Doom Metal. WG was unafraid of worshipping Black Sabbath and unafraid of playing a little slower than their peers making their style uncommon for its time and place.

Yes, this album has a truly tasteless album cover but I enjoy the melancholic masterpiece hiding under that facade. Sabbath fans will love the riffs, hooks and catchiness here. The lyrics suffer on occasion as on the slow acoustic ballad "I Lost You" and their first outing "Death Penalty" was a bit better but songs like "Love on Smack" make up for it. This is fairly light-hearted Doom Metal band having a kick-ass time.

Try this on if you like Angel Witch, Candlemass, Trouble, or even Paradise Lost.

Get It Here

Or: Friends of Hell - Witchfinder General

Monday, January 24, 2011

Muslimgauze - Return of Black September (1996, Ars Nova / Staalplat)

Manchester born Bryn Jones is my favorite electronic producer of the 90's. He quickly carved a niche for himself with a cerebral brand of Dub, Minimal and Electro beats that were awash with heavy Drone. Each piece also included samples from Middle Eastern sourced audio.

Jones music was sympathetic to the P.L.O. and much of the album art contained generally militant Islamic imagery. Recordings had titles such as Hamas Arc, Azzazin, Gun Aramaic, Fatah Guerilla and Zuriff Moussa. Also of note is that it seems as if his music was actually its own entity. Jones never visited the Middle East nor did he speak indepth on the topic.

His tragic death in 1999 was untimely but kept him from inevitably being targeted and harassed by U.S. authorities post-9/11.

Return of Black September is his piece de resistance in a most prolific body of work that included a library of over one hundred albums. September is also his most beautiful achievement. One hour long track begins with dark experimental ambient textures, becomes dotted with Middle Eastern audio samples and builds into a tense wall of Tribal, Industrial and Eastern percussion. The result is a vivid trip through the desolate landscapes of an endless warzone.

Muslimgauze material is like nothing else. An impressive catalog of some of the best, most intellectually and emotionally profound electronic music ever made.

Also tacked on the end is a very creepy extended remix of Gun Aramaic's "Opiate and Mullah".

Get It Here

Or: Muslimgauze

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mugstar - Lime (2010, Important Records)

I can't believe I only recently discovered a Psych / Krautrock band who's claim to fame is that they were the last Peel Session. Truth. Mugstar is melting my face on some cosmic plane right now (they almost make me want to get into that hippie nonsense). These Liverpool boys are the most interesting band of their genre at the moment. Many others are trying but missing the mark. This is no exaggeration.

Imagine sprawling eight to thirteen minute minimal jams that refuse to become redundant. Guitars, bass, drums, synth and sax creating a mindbending and hypnotic trance. Mugstar is possessed by Neu, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. One can also hear Steve Reich, Sonic Youth and Oneida. Put it all together and crank the volume.

As Joseph Stannard of WIRE said "Given the streamlined nature of their trip, it'd perhaps be accurate to describe Mugstar as DMT where contemporaries such as Wooden Shjips or The Heads are striving to be acid".

Get It Here

Or: Lime - Mugstar

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Mops - Iijanaika (1971, JVC)

The released their third album in the year that was Japan's triumphant time to shine, 1971 (according to Julian Cope's . This is a solid journey through Heavy Psych, Garage, Folk and Blues.

Often overlooked, The Mops were a band that obviously emulated the U.S. hippie scene (Jefferson Airplane) as well as the UK heavy rock scene (Black Sabbath) but did it with their own charismatic personality. At times acidic, epic and gritty; and at other times over the top with its campy heartwarming tenderness, Iijanaika runs the gamut of historically strange Japanese musical affinities.

And dig that crazy cover art, man.

Get It Here

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Durutti Column - The Return of the Durutti Column (1980, Factory Records)

The fact (no pun intended) that Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus released this album, which is in such stark contrast to all else on Factory Records at the time, shows just how forward thinking and brilliant they were.

Although unheralded at the time, This release is a topic of cult nerd guitar record conversation and Vinni now plays huge European festivals. its a deceitfully simple album of effected instrumental guitar melodies with a bit of drums. One could easily write it off as pleasant background music. Although, upon further investigation, the beauty of the last remaining member Vini Reilly's classical, rock, jazz and folk stylings demands attention. Quietly sit down with this one and notice the incomparable details of the guitar as well as the work of one of the greatest producers of all time, Martin Hannett.

Also of interest is the sleeve. Made of sandpaper, this was a situationalist joke based on the ideas of Guy Debord. When on the shelf, it would rub against and destroy other sleeves.

The legend is that a very broke Ian Curtis put these sleeves together for extra cash while the rest of Joy Division was watching porn in the same room.

Get It Here

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hair and Skin Trading Company - Psychedelische Musique (1995, Freek Records)

This British quartet included two ex-members of Loop (Neil McKay on bass and John Wills on drums). This project lasted little over three years. The first couple albums and EP were akin to MBV and The Skids but on this last outing, they left all conventional rock concepts behind and went in a Faust-like direction.

Drone, Avant-noise, Steve Reich style vocal loops, media cut ups, raw No Wave electric guitar, gnarly Dub-flavored drum patterns and classic Kraut synth knob-tweeking - Its all here and it makes for a great record full of accessible and charming experiments.

Get It Here

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Current 93 - Black Ships Ate the Sky (2006, Durtro-Jnana)

Prophecy? False prophecy? Apostacy? No matter your opinion, David Tibet knows that Armageddon is coming and he's been sharing his own doomsaying gospel for thirty years. Here, he employs a central theme with Idumea, Charles Wesley's 1763 Methodist Hymn of doom and doubt.

"And am I born to die?
To lay this body down?
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown -
A land of deepest shade,
Unpierced by human thought,
The dreary regions of the dead,
Where all things are forgot?"

"Soon as from earth I go,
What will become of me?
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my portion be;
Waked by the trumpet's sound,
I from my grave shall rise,
And see the Judge with glory crowned,
And see the flaming skies."

There are eight fantastic versions of this death-addled hymn. With vocals by Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Antony Hegarty, Marc Almond, Shirley Collins, Baby Dee, Clodagh Simonds, Pantaleimon and Tibet himself. And with a cast of musicians like Ben Chasny, John Contreras, William Breeze, Michael Cashmore and Steven Stapleton (Nurse with Wound), this a recipe for, in this context, is a success.

Each version of the hymn is surrounded by lovely and simultaneously disturbing tomes and drones which are composed and executed impeccably. He speaks of endtimes, its characters, their insanity and their virtues.

Once again, the sheer intensity of Tibet's sackcloth and ashes murmurs and dream-like wailings make the impending apocalypse appear oddly romantic.

"I am the black ship...I am the black ship."

Get It Here

Or: Black Ships Ate the Sky - Current 93

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Robin Guthrie - Imperial (2003, Bella Union)

Robin Guthrie's guitar delay and chorus pedal settings along with Simon Raymonde and Elizabeth Frazer's voice laid the foundation for Shoegaze with Cocteau Twins in the early 80's. Everyone imitates Guthrie's guitar sound (including Kevin Shields, sorry kids, he didn't start it all). After many tumultuos years, the band broke up. All three members continue to make fine solo recordings but so far, this one is my favorite.

Most of the album is reminiscent of early Twins material as well as Apollo circa Eno. Lush instrumental landscapes that I find incredibly meditative. I often find myself listening to this before bed due to its relaxing properties. Sheer beauty. I miss her gorgeous voice but a few minutes into it, I forget.

Get It Here

Or: Imperial - Robin Guthrie

Monday, January 17, 2011

Salem - King Night (2010, lamsound)

Ok, so, I fought it and fought it but I had to cave and admit that I really like this stuff. I usually hate jumping on new genre bandwagons buts but I could take the reins on this one. Maybe Its the timeless and juvenile sense of humor...maybe its the fact that I've always loved weirdo rap like Kool Keith...maybe its that I remember loving what music sounds like after ingesting a lot of codeine. Whatever the reason, I think this shit rules.

Impossibly screwed beats and warbly gargled verses fueled by the Traverse City / Chicago trio's affinity for downers are too good too resist. Bass-heavy distortion, guitar feedback, other-worldly synth and even orchestration are behind this new Hip Hop / Dubstep / Drone monstrocity.

This is Witch House, Screw-Gaze, Ghost Drone, Mid West Weird cult material. Enjoy.

Also check out their first EP "I Smoke Crack". 'Nuff said.

Get It Here

Or: Salem

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Coil - Time Machines (1998, Eskaton)

1. "7-Methoxy-β-Carboline: (Telepathine)" – 23:10
2. "2,5-Dimethoxy-4-Ethyl-Amphetamine: (DOET/Hecate)" – 13:28
3. "5-Methoxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine: (5-MeO-DMT)" – 10:02
4. "4-Indolol, 3-[2-(Dimethylamino)Ethyl], Phosphate Ester: (Psilocybin)" – 26:51

These are the four tracks composed under a single drone on Coil's landmark masterpiece experimental ambient album. Jhon Balance and Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson , along with Drew McDowall and William Breeze on this outing, tested each tone in the studio for maximum narcotic potency. Balance claimed that the album was an attempt to "dissolve time and / or facilitate time travel".

Turn the speakers up loud enough and you can feel the hallucinogenic effects of each track just as they were intended to be felt. Pulsing minimal rhythms caress the inside of your skull like a consistent soft mist. One need not have experienced any of the drugs these tracks were named for to receive the benefits of this mind altering recording.

The relaxing calm is confusing as it seems as though your mind is being hypnotised and fed through a machine for your own good. Every harmonic resonance here was meticulously produced and calculated to react to room acoustics and different interior environments.

Time Machines actually causes psychoactive change through raw vibration. Listen at your own risk.

Get It Here

Friday, January 14, 2011

Moevot - Abgzvoryathre (1993) DEMO tape

Moevot (Vordb from Les Legions Noires) makes the blackest metal without a hint of Black Metal. This is pure Ambient darkness. From a clean and beautiful vocal chanting an inverted Lord's Prayer to deathly gurgling over simple organ repition, this is spine-tingling music. A world of very real paranoia envelopes me as I listen to this on headphones while sitting in the dark. This is no joke. Utterly bleak and minimal guitar strumming performed in the cultish context presented here is disturbing and extremely uncomfortable. This feels like the score to a silent 1920's black mass snuff film. Definitive Black Ambient.

Get It Here

Learn more about Les Legions Noire here

R.I.P. Trish Keenan

The lead singer of Broadcast has passed away at 42. Sad.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Solar Bears - She Was Coloured In (2010, Planet Mu)

Irish duo Solar Bears is really tickling my fancy, adding to this winter's obsession with faux 70's film scores. These guys really nail it. They warble undersea through an audio cassette beeping when its time to change the frame on the filmstrip of Saturday afternoon sci-fi television.

There is mellotron and synthesizer ambience a la Emeralds, Gorgio Moroderesque disco (reminiscent of how Umberto is cooking it up these days) and even elements of late 60's early 70's atmospheric hallucinogenic rock.

Have I heard this before or do I hear it 30 years from now? Post-future present.

Get It Here

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Necks - Chemist (2005, Fish of Milk)

The 13th album by Australian improvisational trio The Necks is my favorite of their catalog. Here they changed the formula. Instead of hour long tracks as on their prior outings, they opted for three 20 minute tracks.

The typical modus operandi for this band is to begin simply with a thematic phrase and explore it as deeply as possible over a lengthy period of time. There aren't many obvious changes in this process. However, to the attuned and refined ear, these minute changes will actually feel intense and dramatic over the course of the interminable forms. Their tact, patience and subtlety puts them in the categories of Minimalist compostion and Krautrock.

The improvisations feel completely natural in these lush, heavy and emotional recordings. The Necks provide an outstanding example of artful repetition. Hybridizing elements of the ECM label, 70's Minimal Prog and 80's Serial music layered in a crust of Doom and darkness. Essentially, this band is making Jazz by true definition.

Get It Here

Monday, January 10, 2011

Moonsorrow - Viides Luku : Havitetty (2007, Spikefarm)

This is the most exciting album I've heard in quite a while. Finnish sextet Moonsorrow has crafted an impressive document of Progressive Black Metal. There are elements here that would appeal to fans of Opeth as well as fans of Drudkh or Wolves in the Throne Room. This is a cross sub-genre recording that never feels contrives or trifling.

"Jaasta Syntynt, Varjojen Virta" is a drawn out 30 minute piece that never loses my attention. Its important to recognize that this is not several short movements fused together but an actual half hour long song. An unbelievable undertaking, incredibly conceived and masterfully executed. Around the sound of a crackling fire, guitars slowly churn, building into a doomscape with death and progressive overtones. This evolves into a heavy Black Metal motif with traditional folk instrumentation. The effect is epically brutal and spiritually torturous.

"Tuleen Ajettu Maa" begins with intensive chanting and quickly bursts into classic heavy blastbeats and tremelo guitar.

The organic flow of the composition and structure here is mindbending. Don't forsake this undeniably great Heathen Black Metal masterpiece.

Get It Here

Or: Viides Luku - Havitetty - Moonsorrow

Monday, January 3, 2011

U.S. Christmas - Run Thick in the Night (2010, Relapse)

I'm very proud of my hometown heroes for the extraordinary amount of attention they've received for this new album. Growing up worshipping Neurosis makes it incredible for me have friends that ended up on the Neurot label for a while.

There's not much like their sound either. A very original mix of Sludge Metal, Blues and blown out Post-Rock that I half-jokingly refer to as Blood Meridian Metal. Imagine Neurosis and Hawkwind colliding with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and you'll have a good idea.

Heavy, sad and beautiful, this band offers a narrative that is a voyage into existentialism. Cerebral and emotional yet raw and edgy, USX is onto something great.

Long live Asheville, NC metal.

Get It Here

Or: Run Thick In The Night - U.S. Christmas

Order Gatefold 2 LP from Relapse Here

Chaos Moon - Languor into Echoes, Beyond (2007, Ars Magna Recordings)

This band is primarily the project of Esoterica. The fact that these guys hail from Nashville, Tennessee surprises the hell out of me. For all I knew this could have been someone in his bedroom in the Eastern Bloc.

The first half of the record is chock full of blast-beats and second wave familiarity that most Black Metal fans will enjoy. However, in the middle of the fourteen minute epic "Simulacrum of Mirrors", things shift in the favor of those who enjoy Atmospheric Black Metal. I'm just implying some similarity. I do not intend to lump this band into the Wolves in the Throne Room category. What I find most interesting about this album is the use of standard blast-beats and the use of ethereal keyboards almost in opposition to each other culminating in its own cohesive sound.

This results in Ambient AND Black Metal, not Ambient Black Metal. Many elements presented here will be familiar to those who enjoyed Leviathan's "Lurker of Chalice" project. Also in contrast is the romantic sound of Chaos Moon. I have no idea what the lyrics are but little of this recording feels suicidal or even self-loathing to me. There is more than a sliver of light seeping through in "The Palterer" and in "Hymn to Iniquity" where there are obvious hints of 4AD and Shoegaze.

If you are open to synthesizers with your Black Metal, I'd be shocked if you didn't enjoy this one.

Get It Here

Or: Languor into Echoes, Beyond - Chaos Moon

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Adam Forkner - Vvrssnn (2003, K Records)

You may know Adam Forkner by his other monikers, "White Rainbow" or "Yume Bitsu", impressive projects in themselves, but with this album he created of the finest electronic releases of the last decade.

Vvrssnn (pronounced "version") seems to have no particular genre in mind. This album moves gracefully through danceable tracks, downtempo grooves, psychedelic dirges and gorgeous drones, all enveloped in a spaced out meditative sensory deprivation chamber. The moment you begin to mellow and feel a bit lost, he pulls you back into a punchy four on the floor with perfect precision. Forkner has an eloquent approach to the entire composition. The narrative exists, is impossible to interpret but feels familiar all the while. Guest appearances by other members of Yume Bitsu and the rhythm section of "Modest Mouse" give everything a warm and cozy live feel that is necessary for those who don't ordinarily dig electronic material.

Give it a couple of tracks. There is a seemingly saccharin coating to some of the cuts. But, I find it fascinating that he uses the electronic staples as an ironic mask for the brilliance underneath it.

Get It Here

Or: [[[VVRSSNN]]] - [[[VVRSSNN]]] (Adam Forkner of Yume Bitsu)