Sunday, February 27, 2011

John Coltrane - Complete Recordings with Dizzy Gillespie (1950, Verve)

The first eight tracks here are from Nov. 21, 1949 and Jan. 9, 1950, John Coltrane's first two recorded appearances. Its not the upper echelon, in fact, its difficult to fathom the giant that he would later become. He hadn't kicked heroin at this time and soon Diz would fire him in the first of a long list of Trane's firings. The important thing to remember here is that you're listening to one of the greatest musicians of all time. I would liken it to a Christian watching the birth of baby Jesus. Pretty special.

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R.I.P Clare Armory 1975 - 2011

Clare Armory of Brooklyn avant-garde Noise / Experimental band Excepter has died at 35 after a nine year battle with cancer. she will be greatly missed.

"Kill People" from the album "Debt. Dept." gets stuck in my head often and was one of my favorite tracks from 2008.

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Or: Debt Dept - Excepter

Friday, February 25, 2011

Arcane Device - Also Sprach Zarathustra (1990, Anckarstrom)

Consider the fact that Drone is a buzz word these days. Now, consider the fact that some hipster kids are into it. Now, consider the fact that I was made fun of for listening to Steve Roach at 18 years old, in 1992. Everything that used to be made fun of is now cool. Well, somehow, David Lee Myers remains under the hipster radar as well as mine until recently.

This recording is flooring me. I listened to it because it came to me amidst a mass mp3 swap. Yep, hooked into the matrix and assimilated a hard drive. I do that often and I do it unabashedly. However, over the years its become increasingly rare that I'm shocked and amazed. I began listening to this 50 minute album because it was next in my alphabetized itunes after choosing the genre "ambient". When it breached the wall of background music I thought to myself "hmm... I wonder which dark ambient superstar this is? Side project of Lustmord or Raison D'etre or Sephiroth?". Wrong. No one I'd ever heard of and recorded in 1990? Impossible but true.

David Lee Myers used the Arcane Device moniker from 1987 to 1993. He collaborated with musicians such as Asmus Tietchens, Tod Dockstader, Marco Oppedisano, and Kim Cascone. He was drawn to the feedback possibilities and various effects boxes associated with electronic music. After grasping the concepts behind Frippertronics and Eno's ambient music, he built a system that would produce feedback to be manipulated by numerous dials, knobs, and buttons, all rigged together. The results sound nothing like feedback as we have come to know it -- depending on Myers' treatments, the sounds produced feel like synthesizers, rhythm boxes, industrial noise, and ambient drones.

Steve Roach meets Fripp meets Lustmord. Fucking weird and goooooood.

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ARC - Arkhangelsk (2008, Epidemie)

Improvisational experimental Drone recordings are a dime a dozen these days and the validity is rarely substantial. I know because I've been in quite a few. The Canadian trio ARC comes at it with an authentically avant-garde sound and atmosphere. Aidan Baker (guitars, flutes, tapeloops), Richard Baker (drumkit and percussion) and Christopher Kukiel (percussion) perform psychedelic guitar Drone with a rhythmically tribal approach. "Arkhangelsk" consists of four lengthy compositions recorded in two sessions. The first was improvisation on drumset and guitar and the second was layered percussion, electronics, and flute. Both were in real-time single takes with a minimum of post-production so as to capture the spontaneity of the performances. Here, they brilliantly combine poly-rhythms and textures that I find currently unmatched. They've drawn comparison to Tribes of Neurot, and I would also add Schizotrope, San Augustin and Locrian.

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Fela Kuti - Coffin for the Head of State EP (1980, Barclay Records)

In 1977 Fela and the Afrika '70 released the hit album Zombie, a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military.

The darkest album he ever made, "Coffin for Head of State" was a response to the death of Fela's activist mother from being thrown out a window during the ensuing 1977 army raid on Kalakuta. The government of Nigeria had enough of Fela Kuti and decided to take action on his compound residence that he called the Kalakuta Republic. Over a thousand soldiers took the compound and savagely beat the residents. Fela himself escaped death but this did result in incarceration.

This is the soundtrack to his funeral march as he delivered his mother's coffin to the steps of Nigerian president Obasanjo himself. As his sadness grows he sings: "Them kill my Mama/So I carry the coffin." Full of anguish and sadness, this is the most emotionally open record he ever made.

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Or: Coffin for Head of State - EP - Fela Kuti

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Windy Weber - I Hate People (2008, Blue Flea and Kenedik)

If you're familiar with the music made by Windy & Carl, then you probably have this. If not, you need it. The duo make gorgeous ambient music with the reverberating sounds of guitars, organs and vocals.

On this solo effort from Windy, the method is the same, only, Windy ain't so gorgeous. In fact, it sounds as if she's attempting to exorcise personal demons through Drone. The two long and painfully dismal tracks on "I Hate People" are buried in strings and screeching feedback. This is an extremely unpleasant journey.

Side A, "Sirens", seems as though she wants us to feel tension and anxiety. Brooding her way through the majority of the track but letting up toward the 24 minute mark, there is a brief release. The self-therapy helped, right?

No. "Destroyed" begins with a disturbing Ohm, antithetical to the regular use of the chanting process. She almost immediately adds a very uneven breathing that creates an incredibly twisted and disorientating atmosphere. Half way through the 32 minute piece, she stabs into us with a bone-chilling jackhammer guitar effect.

Kranky was so disturbed by this that they rejected it. The overall intent appears to be a seance that conjures every negative emotion and then shows utter contempt for all of it. Welcome to Windy's nightmare.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mater Suspiria Vision - Mondo Inferno 2012 mixtape (2011, CDX)

These Afghani weirdos are making some of the most interesting Witch House around and this mixtape is astonishing. Remixes of Britney Spears, Rhianna, Justice, Stacey Q and even the Mamas and the Papas journey into bizarre and utterly hypnotizing territories. Also contains originals by oOoOO, White Ring and some unknown artists. This material is bewildering. Its spectral, eerie, suspicious and groovy. Best mix I've heard in quite a while.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Legendary Marvin Pontiac's Greatest Hits (2000, Strange and Beautiful)

This son of a father from Mali and a Jewish mother from New York wrote many classic songs while in and out of mental institutions. Sadly, he died mysteriously and his vast repertoire was minimally documented. At least, that's what the liner notes to this album would have us to believe. In reality, however, none of this is true. This is an amusing tall tale spun by the inimitable Lounge Lizard himself, John Lurie.

Lurie is a living legend. He was instrumental to the high art culture of the late 70's / early 80's downtown New York City scene. His renaissance man style creative output put him in the limelight; playing cool music, painting and popping up in the hippest films. His charming personna and brilliant sense of humor is irresistible and has always greatly appealed to me.

With this ridiculous moniker, he recorded songs in the trash can blues style made famous by Tom Waits. Although I draw comparison here, this is not knock-off material. He created a pastiche of Jazz, Soul, Blues and even World beat. The finished product is an accessible Pop record with a Leonard Cohen-like vocal style, an all-star backing band (John Medeski, Calvin Weston, Marc Ribot and Steve Bernstein, and lyrics that are as poignant as they are hilarious. There are rocking tunes and thick grooves to boot.

Its been speculated that these are just smoothly arranged versions of songs originally written for the Lounge Lizards project that just didn't fit the mold. Either way, download it and forget its Lurie. Believe in the character that is Marvin Pontiac and you'll have a damn fine time.

Get It Here

Or: The Legendary Marvin Pontiac - Greatest Hits - Marvin Pontiac

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Laddio Bolocko - The Life and Times (2005, No Quarter)

Formed in the wake of early 90's Post-Rock and hardcore bands by members of Mars Volta, Dazzling Killmen, Panicsville and Craw and Chalk, these talented musicians could easily have been playing Jazz. Instead, they chose to keep pushing forward with intellectual but not too high brow rock fusion.

Comparisons to Can, This Heat, King Krimson, The Boredoms and even Albert Ayler are all valid. Prog, Kraut, Noise, Drone and Jazz. This Compilation is a nice document to the legacy that obviously impacted many bands after them. This was a truly amazing troupe.

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Or: Life and Times of Laddio Bolocko - Laddio Bolocko

Friday, February 18, 2011

Monkey Fist Radio

Check out my friend Eric Foster's radio style sets on Soundcloud. Fantastic selection of choice cuts in various Avant metals--Sludge, Doom, Drone and experimental. I'm thoroughly enjoying this and you will too.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Master Musicians of Bukkake - Elogia De La Sombra (2010, Latitudes)

This is an act of undisclosed identities. Their mystical, alchemical, kabbalistic and esoteric odes are performed cloaked and masked, which helps draw interest to the novelty they've created, but most critics and nerds have now concluded that the group contains members/former members of Sun City Girls, Earth, Asva, Climax Golden Twin and Burning Witch. Upon listening, you'll assuredly agree with those assumptions.

Elogia De La Sombra is the latest release on the Southern label's Latitudes series, a collection of EP's from an astounding array of innovative and experimental musicians, and this recording is a welcome addition to that impressive list.

The first gargantuan cut of Psych, "Tainted Phenomena", begins with a lone mystic drone followed by improvised drum fills and erratic guitar picking. At the height of the frenzy (one worthy of the Scandinavian Jazz Avant-Garde), all descends into calm as a traditional Tibetan Buddhist mantra is chanted, circling a singular guitar.

As the motorik title track ensues, a Krautrock sound worthy of Neu but akin to Hawkwind is manifested through the hypnotic Apache beat. Lyrics from the Borges poem this outing is named for are chanted, also becoming a mantra over this dazed and abstract groove.

Although not as adventurous as their other trips (Tomem 1 and 2), this half hour excursion is still top notch. As often happens with the Latitudes series, its over too quickly and I'm left wanting much more.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Whitehouse - Bird Seed (2003, Very Friendly)

If you like Extreme Noise, William Bennett is the reason. He doesn't care about you. He says fuck you. Thank him for this and he'll bludgeon you to death with the nearest blunt object. Have a nice day.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Portal - Outre (2007, Profound Lore)

I'm very particular about Death Metal. So much, in fact, that I don't like most of what I hear. The Australian outfit Portal, however, Excites me. This is Avant Garde material, undefined by borders or classification. If I wasn't so desensitized by years of listening to deranged music, they might even disturb me.

Down-tuned guitars scrape and riff along like instruments of torture. The buried bass undulates a gloomy path. Deep gutteral growling vocals conjure pain and evil together with and a brand of intricate but experimental drumming that I find hypnotic. Much of it calls to mind early Immolation and Morbid Angel performed with an undeniable musical prowess and a keen insight into true darkness. A distinguishing factor is the open-mindedness to incorporate elements of other styles such as Suicidal Black or Funeral Doom. Genre-bending with a more extreme approach.

In the very divided world of Australian metal underground, everyone hails Portal.

Get It Here

Or: Outre - Portal

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tinariwen - Imidiwan:Companions (2009, World Village)

The Toureg (Tamashek, as they refer to themselves) are a nomadic culture. Long ago, they traversed northwest Africa, hunting, raising animals, and defending themselves from invading cultures. Few still follow that path today, but many Tamashek still travel about through Mali, Algeria and Niger.

Tinariwen (desert) has a simultaneously complex and simple sound. The compass includes fuzzed out grooves, primitive and spiraling blues and the occasional dervish number that is spiritual but never oppressive. This is very personal music with no commercial aspirations.

The geography, climate and history represented here compels the listener to believe them, and a definitive charm lies within all music that comes out of Mali in particular. The great Ali Farka Toure's guitar sound is familiar to many westerner's at this point and that same beautiful style is presented here. This is genuine, soulful and biographical music.

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Or: Tinariwen

Chubby Checker - Chequered (1971, Ariola)

Chubby Checker was quite a sensation with his 60's dance hit "The Twist". Teenagers all over America were in a frenzy. He went on to record several other chart-toppers (pretty much variations on the same song, there was even a Hava Nagilah Twist). Sadly for him, his luck ran out in 1965 when teen tastes moved into new territory with the Psychedelic Rock and Folk phenomenons.

In 1971, Chubby was conned into recording a psychedelic bluesy soul album by the infamously shady Ed Chalpin(the same guy behind the bootleg Jimi Hendrix w/ Curtis Knight releases). There are shades of The Animals, Love and, of course, Shuggie Otis. Although he didn't have any creative input here, and its obviously cashing in on styles that were all the rage, its a damn good record, better than anything else he ever did. He hated it, wanted it to be forgotten, referred to it as a bootleg. Who cares? Sorry Chubs, you actually did some songs that I didn't get tired of hearing on the radio by the time I was twelve. I certainly don't need to hear "Doin' the Zombie" ever again.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Univers Zero - Heatwave (1986, Cuneiform)

Belgian group Univers Zero were part of the 70's politico-musical RIO (Rock In Opposition) movement. They typically made acoustic based gothic chamber music. But on this record, drummer and composer Daniel Denis took a backseat to keyboardist Andy Kirk, allowing him to compose what resulted in what feels more like a Prog sci-fi / suspense film score than anything else.

Take the darkest elements of King Crimson, toss in a healthy dose of Lalo Schifrin with just a dash of 80's Tzadik Records and voila!, we have the best Dr. Who / Planet of the Apes soundtrack that never was. Really tasty stuff.

Or: Heatwave - Univers Zéro

Friday, February 11, 2011

WIRE - A Bell is a Cup Until it is Unstuck (1988, Mute)

Of course, every hipster loves Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 but what's little known is that WIRE has had many recordings that have fallen through the cracks in coolness. This is a seminal record that made a huge impact on the U.K. Pop vista, an important transition for the band as they tossed aside the Punk elements and embraced a candied Pop direction. Don't get me wrong, ABIAC is still angular and obtuse and the themes are incomprehensible but the structure here is accessible. It definitely influenced many of the bands in the Brit-Pop explosion that followed in the early to mid-90's.

There are actually songs on this album that could have been featured in a John Hughes movie. So, turn off the cerebral listening factor, put the top down and just drive.

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Or: A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck - Wire

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ulver - Shadows of the Sun (2007, The End)

Ulver is one of the most unpredictable bands in the Avant-garde world. The Norwegian trio are firmly rooted in the capitol of the early 90's Black Metal scene; However, they only made a couple records that fit nicely into the genre.

This is an odd bunch. Its possible that the first album was recorded in the forest. Its also possible that when signed to major label Century Media, they put the sign-on Bonus toward Armani suits, haircuts, cocaine, booze and a car. Regardless, the mysterioso and non-conformity is all part of the allure for avid Ulver fans. The band insists that one can be Black Metal as fuck whether or not it involves corpsepaint, blastbeats or tremelo guitars.

The latest outing is their most somber and serene. Its a very laidback compilation of reflective and depressing elegies. Garm's vocals here are perfectly mixed, the heavy synth layers are a solid spine and the choral arrangements are just chilling. Though mostly ambient, the crescendos toward incidental drum tracks are always welcome and the minimal jazz-like trumpet is perfectly positioned. A guest appearance from Christian Fennesz is a nice surprise, as is the cover of Black Sabbath's "Solitude" from "Masters of Reality".

There is an intentional density created in this sound. One that calls to mind the title of their first album "Bergtatt" which, translated, means "wandering off into the mountains". There is a feeling that the solitude depicted in this narrative is a last rites of sorts, a man making peace before his final breath, what things might sound like after the wrists are slashed and the vital crimson is nearly drained. The heart is slowing, the brain is slowing and solace is finally achieved.

Overall, this is their most impressive and refined album to date...metal or not. I can't wait to be surprised by what happens next.

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Or: Shadows of the Sun - Ulver

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fuck NoOoOO: The Anti-Witch House Tape

^Sixty minute tape that's been circulating for a while. Drone, Noise and Rap Thugs in Harmony. Be good to yourself. Download this. Then play it at extraordinarily loud and inappropriate volume in public places. Confuse the living shit out of everyone. Also a good way to frighten people, lose popularity and or friends. Tear the club up...or not. I don't really care.

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Shudder to Think - High Art _OST (1998, Velvel)

Disclaimer: If you're pumped to hear some angular and mathematical post-hardcore then you'll be disappointed by this. If you're into the method and format of 70's-80's artists like Moebius, Fripp, Eno or Rodelius, you're going to dig this.

This is predominantly sad but always moving music. STT have managed to produce very elegant ambient pop instrumentals that underline the heady subject matter of the film. Its fascinating the range of genres weaved together here: Jazz, Funk, Lounge and even Country, all encapsulated in this hazy minimalist bubble. I'm reminded of what really screwed down pop might sound like while buoyant in a sensory deprivation chamber. It makes me feel lighter than seawater, much like heroin might be making the characters in the film feel.

Even when Wedren sings on a couple tracks, it doesn't inhibit the fluidity. Great album to be creative to. High on my list of original film scores that are most conducive to the films they represent.

High Art (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) - Shudder to Think

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Miles Davis - Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud (1958, Verve)

Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud (Lift to the Scaffold) is an often overlooked chef d'oeuvre by the trumpeter just weeks after the recording of "Kind of Blue", and a fine illustration of a genius at the peak of his career. Miles was young, in love and living in Paris. He was often playing in clubs, proving his worth and making an international reputation for himself.

As a musician who has improvised film scores, its exciting for me to imagine Miles staring a the screen and transposing the images and emotions he was experiencing. This twenty-six track collection of muted horns, slowly walking basslines, delicate piano and careful drums cooperated with Louis Malle's camera in articulating each character's every move. This would later become the aural cornerstone of the Film Noir movement.

Its important to note that this is no solo effort. Barney Wilen's tenor sax is a counterpart to Miles' every note and Rene Urtreger comp's perfectly. Pierre Michelot's contrabass along with Kenny Clarke's drums breed a wild rhythm section that is blistering and unstoppable. At times it even seems as if Miles is hardpressed to keep up with them. Ultimately, all played crucial roles in backing Miles with no presumption. Together, they created an underrated gem of the Cool Jazz movement.

Jazz in Paris: Ascenceur pour l'échafaud - Miles Davis

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Year of No Light - Ausserwelt (2010, Conspiracy Records)

In case you haven't noticed, France is a current hotbed for innovative Post-Metal endeavors and Year of No Light is one of the most interesting projects happening there. This sextet from Bordeaux consists of three guitarists, two drummers and a bassist with keyboard skills to boot. The loss of their vocalist forced them to experiment even further and they decided to pursue things instrumentally. Luckily, the intricate communication between the three guitars leaves no vocals to be desired.

I find it convenient that they admit to worshiping a "holy trinity of Black Sabbath, Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine", because it allows me to omit those obvious comparisons in my description.

The four tracks presented here are brilliantly cohesive; a seamless flow of peaceful melancholy, dirty over-driven chords, sludgy riffs with competing melodic Doom. There are even occasional forays into evil Black Metal tremelo and a bit of blastbeat drumming, all drowning in layers of noisy ambient drone.

Especially intriguing to me is the successful use of dual drummers. The effect is similar to some of the Godspeed You! Black Emperor material.

I hate the term Metalgaze but...

Get It Here

Or: Year Of No Light 'Ausserwelt' - Year of No Light

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Loss - Life Without Hope...Death Without Reason (2004, DEMO)

This is a really impressive demo from these Nashville Funeral Doom monsters. Slow and crushing songs about pain, illness and depression that obviously take cues from Thergothon and Mourning Beloved. Nothing run of the mill here either. Its a true homage to a life of depression leading to the inevitable release of suicide. Also included on this re-issue download is an outstanding live cover of Katatonia's "Brave" with guest vocals by Imperial from Krieg, as well as another Loss song that shows their affinity for Blackened Death as well.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Korperschwache - Evil Walks (2010, Crucial Blast)

This Texas mysterioso is really doing it for me right now. Noisy creepy crawlie blackened psychedelic Industrial mayhem containing warm tones and textures. There are obvious elements of Swans and Godflesh. However, nothing does their sound a just description more than the fact that the label describes them as Loop meets Abruptum.

Chew on that idea for a minute. That's what I thought, nothing else need be said.

Get It Here

Or: Evil Walks - Korperschwache

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Einstürzende Neubauten - Anarchitektur (2005, Potomak)

Anarchitektur is the first release of their Musterhaus project, a series of more experimental CD releases that were only available via an annual subscription through their website or from shows during their 25th Anniversary Tour.

Unlike later releases in the Musterhaus series, Anarchitektur did not have a specific theme to it. Rather, it was general experimentation described on the back of the album as "an outlet to the creative aspects of the band that are more experimental, challenging, and less likely to fit into song/album format of their regular releases", a concept which would continue on through the series as the foundation for each release.

I recently revisited this and had forgotten just how creepy it sounds. Through many years of listening to dark musics, I've been a bit desensitized to the horror film-like fright that I felt when I was a teenager first exposed to this band. I was enamored but didn't even know why.

This is vastly different from most of their thirty years of output. More like Kammarheit or Raison d'etre than harsh Industrial environments. A consistent metallic drone emanates through the fourty-six minute piece, then an traditional martial drum stomp and stammer repeats itself periodically. There's nothing groundbreaking here but its nice to hear them doing something in the Drone vein.

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Exploding Star Orchestra - We are All From Somewhere Else (2007., Thrill Jockey)

As big a fan as I am of the Chicago Underground albums through the years, I still think this is Rob Mazurek's crowning achievement. He assembled the cream of the crop in Chicago Avant-Garde Jazz musicians into John McIntyre's studio for an unbelievable undertaking, a contemporary big band orchestra. Not one based soley on free improvisation either. These are complicated compositions requiring rehearsals that only a certain brand of disciplined musician could endure.

Here you'll find the enormous, blustering and sometimes furious sounds of Sun Ra Arkestra's "Space is the Place", the tact and grace of John Coltrane's "Africa Brass Sessions" and the elegance of Steve Reich's "Music for Mallets, Organ and Voice".

The narrative here is a regeneration myth included in the liner notes. A star explodes, sending light energy barreling through the cosmos. These wave particles enter the atmosphere of a planet and strike water, which transforms the photons into an elegant sting ray. Human pollution quickly chokes the ray, but like its stellar point of origin, the animal cannot be destroyed once and for all. The sting ray’s ghost ascends into the sky, rockets beyond the stratosphere, bursts in outer space, and ultimately births a new star. Then the entire journey happens in reverse, leading us right back to where we started.

Mazurek wants to heal us with his music. Call him pretentious if you want. I see him as the new and necessary mystic guru of the genre that made me truly fall in love with music. This is a beautiful album that heralds the struggle for the survival of Jazz. And this is the crew that will keep the ship afloat.

Get It Here

Or: We Are All from Somewhere Else - Exploding Star Orchestra

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Catherine Wheel - Ferment (1992, Fontana)

Catherine Wheel -noun 1. a firework that revolves on a pin, making a wheel of fire or sparks, pinwheel. 2. medieval torture device. 3. Yarmouth, England band that made a fantastic debut Shoegaze record then went on to suck.

1990 saw the band begin playing out, stages full of effects pedals creating lots of feedback over their lush washes of drone. They distinguished themselves from Slowdive, Inspiral Carpets or Stone Roses by being more aggressive and hard-hitting.

In early '91, they recorded a Peel Session, were courted by Creation and Opal (Eno's label) but signed to Fontana. After the "Ferment" album was released and gave them a couple of solid hits stateside, the Smashing Pumpkins credited them as influence in the liner notes of "Siamese Dream". I guess they got tired of the Shoegaze tag and wanted to sound more like the Pumpkins so, gone were the ethereal qualities after that. They went on to release a couple mediocre more straight ahead albums and a couple that were real shite. I blame you, Billy Corgan.

If you're scoffing at them, this album wasn't the one you heard way back then. Trust me.

Get It Here

Or: Ferment - Catherine Wheel