Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cut Hands - Afro Noise (Very Friendly, 2011)

To "cut pure human states" and produce "the most extreme music ever recorded" was the mission William Bennett had in 1980 with his power electronics act "Whitehouse". When industrial bands like Throbbing Gristle and SPK began to calm the storms within, Bennett took his intentionally vile, lecherous and abrasive sound and visual to new heights, disturbing all who witnessed it.

More than 30 years after the inception of Whitehouse, a new project emerged, one light on the noise but heavy on the listening experiences of tastefully aged pair of ears. Cut Hands is a tribute to Bennett's interest in Congolese and Ghanaian persussion. These polyrhythmic African drum sounds are slathered in industrial reverb and complimented by delicately placed ambient textures, drones and even orchestral feeling electronics. All of these elements work incredibly well, creating a surprising groove with a full range of emotion. All this and Bennett's tactically cerebral expertise continues to shine through, never betraying his original essence.

Read full review of Cut Hands - CUT HANDS on ©

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nick Nicely - Psychotropia *Compilation 1980-2003* (Castle Records, 2004)

Upon first hearing Nicely's "hit" song "Hilly Fields(1892)", I was quite simply stunned. How had I not heard this before? This track might be the very reason for the early 80's UK Psych revival. In fact, in an interview, XTC frontman Andy Partridge claims that hearing Nicely prompted him to create XTC's retro-psych alter egos, the Dukes of Stratosphear.

Recognizing Nicely's influences, how he incorporated them, and who he has since influenced creates a dizzying schizophrenia. The ghost of Sgt. Pepper era John Lennon is a definitive presence, John Cale is obviously part of the formula (Paris 1919 / Hilly Fields (1892)), a smattering of original New Wave (via electronic experimentation), a hint of Gary Numan, and a solid dose of R. Stevie Moore.

Luckily, his originality has never been copied in its entirety. Robyn Hitchcock borrowed quite a bit from him, and though not fully mimicking him, I feel that Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti might still owe a large portion of their success to him.

This compilation contains his only official release, an EP from 1982 called "Hilly Fields (1892)", as well as unreleased and obscure recordings over a twenty year period. Enjoy and please pass this gem on.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

808s and Dark Grapes II - Main Attrakionz (Type, 2012)

The Oakland Duo of rapper/producer Squadda B and rapper MondreM.A.N. make spacey downtempo hip hop that a few years ago was affectionately dubbed "cloud rap", a sub-genre which hybridizes the most current rap beats with shoegaze and 90's Houston purple drank feel. Alongside this is a lazy and laidback vocal flow reminiscent of cool Philly vibes and classic good time summer tracks. You may be familiar with some of their contemporaries: Lil' B, Clova, Odd Future and Havoc. These performers have been on numerous mixtapes together.

Type has finally issued the best document of their work on vinyl. It shows them at the height of their game and also showcases the talented beat junkies Clams Casino, Friendzone, Marlee B and Keyboard Kid.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jozef van Wissem and Jim Jarmusch – Concerning the Entrance Into Eternity (Important, 2012)

I must admit, its been many years since I’ve been really pleased with a Jim Jarmusch film. I was an obsessive fan of his work in the 80′s and 90′s. From Stranger than Paradise all the way through Ghost Dog, I anticipated each release. Although I don’t care for his film work these days, I was excited to hear about his musical endeavors with the Dutch Lutist and composer, Jozef van Wissem.

Most might be surprised to hear that this is not Jarmusch’s first musical outing. It is a continuation of the work he did with Wissem on last year’s The Joy That Never Ends album. Not only that but he was keyboardist for the understandably ill-fated early 80′s New York art punk band “The Del-Byzanteens”. Knowing the latter, you may question his musical abilities, but due to his outstanding curating of his own film scores as well as ATP 2010, I do not.

Jozef van Wissem has been releasing albums for the past twelve years. He is known for a conceptual and minimal style of arcane and non-linear progressions that bridge a gap between 17th century ideas and the improvisational and cut and paste tactics of the now. Specializing in experimenting with Baroque and Renaissance forms, he somehow never compromises the traditional sound of the lute, and this is the most impressive aspect of his formula.

All that being said, how did he end up playing with Jim Jarmusch? Was it a marketing tactic or a stunt? Not in the least. Jarmusch is a competent and interesting minimal guitarist. The duo calmly work through five lengthy numbers on this record. Baroque sentiment, warm pastoral folk tomes, strong yet unspoken themes of meditation and even a track with the droning and distorted electric guitar weave a quilt of spirituality similar to the Zen ideas presented in Jarmusch’s classic film, Dead Man, yet, this time around, the Zen is replaced with a similarly subversive religious element, Gnosticism. Three titles are named after Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg’s work. In fact, the closing track contains a reading that seems to summarize all of the ideas they have instrumentally presented.

“He is hanging by his shiny arms, His heart an open wound. Set your eyes on the cross, Set your tongue to speak of his passion.”

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