Thursday, January 30, 2014

R.I.P. Mighty King Hannibal

The funk legend of Norton Records, James T. Shaw aka Mighty Hannibal aka King Hannibal has passed away at 74. He had a couple of particularly powerful songs that were important to me:

One was "The Truth Shall Make You Free", a song to drug addicts preaching that Jesus could help them get off smack. This is ridiculous but the song slays me every time I hear it. It is by far the best 45 in my entire record collection, and possibly the best gospel funk track of all.

Then there is "Hymn No. 5", a banned from the airwaves Vietnam protest song. I've included the long version so you can delve deep into the heaviness and despair of it all.

Sleep well, King.

Pink Priest - Seafoam (Self-released, 2014)

Pink Priest is William Cody Watson, a drone / ambient / experimental musician from Arkansas. I pushed Cody's last Bathetic Records release on HERE a couple years ago.

According to his Bandcamp, this will be the last solo record for the foreseeable future. Although, I'd like to hear more from him, he's gone out with a lovely record that falls under one of my favorite sub-genres, pastoral drone. On this outing, he seems to conjure classic early ambient masters. If Editions EG were still around, Seafoam would find a home right next to Apollo:Atmospheres. This is deep meditative drone. Cures what ails ya.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

HARDWARE - Simon Boswell / VA / O.S.T. (Varese Sarabande, 1989)

Hardware is a 1990 British-American post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film directed by Richard Stanley and starring Dylan McDermott. Inspired by a short story in 2000 AD (Judge Dredd comic), the film depicts the rampage of a self-repairing robot in a post-apocalyptic slum...And its not very good. However, it is a cult classic with a killer soundtrack.

Simon Boswell's original pieces are exceptionally creepy and dystopian, walking that fine line between sci-fi and horror. There are also classic songs from PiL, Ministry, and Motorhead. Besides, the music, its a fun flick with the voice of Iggy Pop as "Angry Bob" the psycho radio dj, as well as Lemmy as a taxi driver. Its a cyberpunk gem, with the exception of the killer robot that is unstoppable... until he takes a shower.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

R.I.P. Pete Seeger, this is you hanging out with Johnny Cash.

We lost an icon today. I chose the Johnny Cash video for obvious reasons. Theyyyyyyy

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cave Evil - KVVL Radio Mixtape (Rotten Shape, 2013)

I was never a RPG guy. Tried my hand at a couple one summer back in '92 but I just wasn't nerdy in that particularly way. What I am nerdy about to this day, is anything dark ambient or black metal. If you like either / both of these, boy oh boy, do I have a treat for you.

A really creative subgenre is black metal presented as if it were being made in the middle ages (Wolfmangler, Dead Raven Choir, etc.). The music presented here is the soundtrack to some ridiculous "Necro-Demonic Dungeon Brawl Boardcame", and it contains a sort of black subgenre, mixed with some sound effects and ritual electronic blackness.

Even if you scoff at RPG's, try the tunes. Fun stuff. The ninety minute mixtape features tracks from Night of Ultraviolence, Wizard333, Swordsect, Abandoned Places, Manifester, Cex, MarderIII, Muroc, Hatred, Crypt Enforcer, Whispers of Dead Gods, Tres Quatro, Mammal, OoznDmrr, Indignant Senility, and Khand. Uh huh, laugh until you listen.

Thanks to Justin Farrar for the heads up on this one. Listen on the completely over the top radio station website HERE

Or at Bandcamp:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Young Echo - Nexus (Ramp, 2013)

This is another record I regret slipping past me in 2013. The Bristol collective Young Echo is comprised of several artists with stellar output in the past couple years. Vessel's 'Order of Noise' made my best of 2012, Zhou makes meditative drone, Khan is a respected dubstep producer and the other members, El Kid, Jabu, Neek, Manomars and Ishan Sound have managed to make names for themselves.

Its no coincidence that this album has the Wild Bunch scenario, given that these kids obvious work in that Tricky / Massive Attack tradition. The general aesthetic is the blunted downtempo of their metropolitan mentors. However, Young Echo is deconstructivist. The dancefloor is broken. Beats are fodder for cutups. The hip hop and bass are buried beneath drones, spoken work, ethereal female vocals and frequencies on par with a Raster Noton album. The ghosts of Nurse with Wound and Boyd Rice are here, remixing for some cerebral nonexistent club, a place where sci-fi 2-step co-mingles with dub and introspective pop.

Elements collide, float together, fall apart and fade away, but ultimately, and surprisingly, cohesion is victorious.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wire:On the Box 1979 (Pink Flag Archive Series, 2004)

It was a decade ago I wandered into my local record store, saw this CD/DVD release, and immediately proceeded to checkout. I knew it was going to be crucial. What I didn't know was that it would soon be my favorite live concert video of all time. I've not strayed from that opinion in all these years. Wire, in that era, was something that could neither be matched, nor improved upon. I'm still in awe of the creativity displayed with guitar, bass, drums and vocals. They are the kings of angular art house snob music, both for the proles and those at university. If you've not seen it, I urge you to do so now. Masters at work.

I've included a great review by Craig Grannell from the 2004 release:

"The gig happened between Chairs Missing and 154, and finds Wire in typically abrasive mood. In front of a polite, but nonplussed German television audience, Wire race through a set of proto-154 numbers and some older tracks, devoid of Mike Thorne's sometimes heavy-handed production. It's testament to the band's creativity and unique vision that the gig still stands up well today and doesn't sound terribly dated, despite it being over two decades old.

 Amusingly, the band's on-stage persona seems to be little different from today: Newman a proto-Kraktwerk robot (albeit wearing a tie in those days), barking lyrics, wrestling with his guitar, then twisting like a marionette, dancing in staccato; Lewis flinging his bass around with merry abandon, with eyes that suggest if anyone wants to start anything, he's all-too ready; Gotobed, the metronome—eyes closed, keeping the beat; and Gilbert, at the back of the stage, carefully and purposely adding counterpoint to the Newman guitar. Although a little bass-heavy, the remixed soundtrack pleases, as does the video, which while having some artefacts and colour distortion, is perhaps as good as you'd expect from a 20-year-old television show. Unfortunately, someone saw fit to ignore one of the main bonuses of DVD: the gig has no track markers whatsoever. We presume that Wire's argument will be something like the gig is a whole entity—a complete performance—and should be watched as such, in one sitting. However, part of the magic of DVD is the viewer having the ability to skip to where they want to. Also, track markers to specific tracks would have made sense, seeing as the DVD retains the original broadcast's rather erratic titling.

 Two extras, both desirable, come with this package. The first is an amusing interview conducted with the band after the gig. Wire are their usual obstructive selves, making life difficult for the interviewer and providing succinct, sometimes abstract answers. The video quality of the interview is notably inferior to the gig, but this matters little: the soundtrack is fine, and Gotobed fans will be interested to note that he offers a few well-chosen words part-way through. The other extra is a CD of the entire gig soundtrack—a nice touch, enabling you to listen to the audio wherever you want, rather than being glued to your TV set. Thankfully, the track marker issue doesn't extend to the CD, which enables you to skip tracks as you'd expect. Overall, this is a promising start to the archive series. We hope the lack of track markets will be addressed on future releases, such as the forthcoming Send DVD, but the CD is a welcome bonus, and the gig itself still manages to excite after all these years."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Corrupted - El Mundo Frio (HG Fact, 2005)

Corrupted are quite possibly the most patient band in the world. They are the epitome of doom: near infinite intros, slowly plodding downtuned riffs, ambient space, growling vocals, and minimal delivery. Amidst all this, they even somehow succeed in incorporating a harp, proving to be as equally delicate and lush as they are heavy. Many of their albums are single tracks that pass the hour mark, reinforcing the unending bleakness of content.

The veteran Japanese act offers some of the most beautifully dystopian sounds I've ever heard. In keeping with the depressing aesthetic, in its twenty year existence, the band has never given an interview and does not do photos. Although they tour the west, they dismiss general interest in mass appeal. One esoteric factor is the use of Spanish as the choice of language for lyrics. Its a fascinating niche they've carved for themselves, and the abundance of fan posted live footage on youtube shows that it is working very well.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy David Lynch Day!

This man is a monumental figure in my life. I'm consistently amazed by his artistic output. His films, paintings, animation and even musical compositions have all been enormous influences. Everyone is familiar with his film and television but I'm not sure most are aware the the music in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks primarily composed by the great Angelo Badalamenti is actually a collaborative effort.

Badalamenti is brilliant but Lynch is quite the musician as well, the mischievous jazz setting for Twin Peaks being his concept. Unbeknownst to the dynamic duo, their tunes would spawn one of my personal favorite subgenres, doom jazz, a form of music that combines the slow tempos, and sense of despair of doom metal with jazz style and sensibility. The music usually conveys an aura of pessimistic introspection, punctuated by dark ambient influences. Championed mostly by Bohren and Der Club of Gore, its also practiced by Mount Fuji Doom Jazz Corporation, Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Dale Cooper Quartet and the Dictaphones, and many more.

Celebrate the legend's birthday by listening to these great scores below:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Neil Young with The Ducks - Shows from the Summer of 1977

For a few weeks during the summer of 1977 in Santa Cruz, California, a rock group formed by singer/ songwriter Jeff Blackburn played some shows. The band also consisted of Bob Mosely (Moby Grape), Johnny Craviotto (sessions drummer for Ry Cooder, Arlo Guthrie and Buffy St. Marie), and some guy named Neil Young. They played songs about trucks, girls and bars. Here's a compilation of board recordings from these shows. A little summer music for your winter:

Black Marble - A Different Arrangement (Hardly Art, 2012)

Here's a group that's been winter therapy for me lately. Black Marble is a 'minimal wave' revival act from Brooklyn. They play post-punk style synth meets early Human League experiments. For the Brits: Tiny Mixtapes described it as "looking out at Manchester from your bedroom in Sheffield". Melancholy vibes with a French coldwave delivery sans suicide. There's a lot of positivity here if you sift through the Roland fog.

This is a fun record. Classic drum beats. Driving punchy bass lines. Fast tempos. Dance alone reading J.G. Ballard with a spot of Earl Grey. 1982. Minimal mascara.

Vaadat Charigim - The World is Well Lost (Burger, 2013 - CS)

Maybe its too soon for this here at The Nomadic Subject as we're really just getting into the thick of winter but I didn't want to forget this one. Vaadat Charigim is a great new shoegaze band with a cassette out on Burger Records (the vinyl was just issued somewhere as well). Its a classic shimmering dream pop sound (heavy on the Ride, light on the MbV), with that hopeful vibe that usually hits me in early spring. This combined with a bit of dark new wave a la 1985 The Chameleons / Echo gives them that 'cruising with the top down' feeling.

So, you're wondering what distinguishes them from the million plus shoegaze revival bands, right? Well, its the fact that these guys are Israeli, and the low baritoned vocalist does not try to hide the accent. Its thick and lovely. If you're not familiar, it sounds like a French accent with Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Yiddish. As far as the voice as instrument, this one wins. Perfect package here. Great music when you need a little pick me up.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Music for Solaris: Two Versions (Artemyev (1972) / Martinez (2002)

I can feel the nerd purists seething already. My death warrant is being signed, right? Well, though this is not a popular sentiment, I love both these scores. I even think Soderbergh's remake of the original film has its good qualities. In case it wasn't obvious, you're hearing this from not only a Tarkovsky junkie, but a Lem junkie as well. Don't me misled, Tarkovsky took liberties with his adaptation of the novel just like Soderbergh did. Sometimes these things are necessary. Deal.

Artemyev's original score is simply bleak. There are scraping sounds reminiscent of live electrical wires, extended pipe organ deliveries and heavy tape edits. Its raw, stark and perfectly appropriate for the incredibly slow pace and visual aesthetic. This is a fine example of a thinking feller's soundtrack. No frills.

Martinez, however, had a tough job. This version of the film had a more traditional Hollywood, a film noir setting. Not only did he have to be more blatant with musical concepts but the consistent presence of melody was necessary to keep the ADD audience's attention. His string and synth pulsing-based style worked perfectly. It does blur a bit with Clint Mansell's work, but there's nothing wrong with that. Gorgeous melodies and great rhythmic scene development here.

Both these have been reissued on vinyl. Grip them soon. Check out both soundtracks below.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Wind-up Bird - S/T (Alone, 2002)

The Wind-up Bird, Joseph Grimm, is a contemporary multimedia experimental composer. I know of him thanks to Vincent's Ear (legendary Asheville, NC nightclub, show ca 2002). This is a truly important album in my life, launching an obsessive interest in ambient / drone / experimental A/V hybrids.

His installation concept comes to life before your eyes and ears creating near synesthesia. Swirling sounds of looped violin, guitar and trumpet delicately create drones of beautiful and cinematic melancholy. 16mm projections snake around the room, enhancing the sanctuary that is his ghostly narrative. This music offers passionate and heartbreaking moods unparalleled by most other modern ambient motifs, in a hyper-sensory experience. As striking as it is subtle, the album is high on my list of all time favorites.

His artist statement:

My medium, properly understood, is not objects in space; nor is it light and sound. Instead I interrogate the human body’s psycho-sensory apparatus, exposing its blind spots, glitches, errors. Taking sense experience as my canvas, I make work that exposes the support; I show where the canvas ends. In my recent performance and installation work, I use modified 16mm projectors, sans film. Micro-controllers algorithmically vary the speed of the projectors’ motors. At slow speeds, the shutter’s passing before the bulb generates intense flickering patterns. But as motors accelerate, flickers become so fast that they disappear to the human eye. At this threshold, ephemeral forms with unexpected color and movement are generated by the viewer's body. In certain pieces, I use handmade electronics to translate these shifting light patterns into sound waves which are at times audible, but at other times ultrasonic or infrasonic. Projecting into corners and onto domestic fan blades, I create illusions of dimension and motion that paradoxically negate illusion, prompting the viewer to negotiate a direct, problematized confrontation with space, matter, and time: what you see is not what there is. To encounter an artwork that exists partially beyond sensory thresholds is to face the limits of one’s ability to apprehend the ontologically real. When a phenomenon like sound vibration or flickering light moves back and forth across the border between the perceptible and the imperceptible, the fragility of the body is exposed in its limited ability to know its physical surroundings. Through this experience, I hope viewers will obliquely access the ultimately inaccessible world of things in themselves. I make art that, in Jean-Francois Lyotard's words, "bears witness to the incommensurability between thought and the real world."

More at his Website.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Manuel Gottsching - E2-E4 (MG, 1984)

I've been on a music history kick lately and decided to make a few posts about releases that were crucially influential to musicians that followed. I'll begin with one that may be obvious to the electronic aficionado that reads this blog, 'E2-E4'. Simply put, this is the ultimate proto-techno cut. Manuel Gottsching (guitarist for Ash Ra Tempel) released his first solo album with a monument to time's end. The reason for its groundbreaking nature was his lack of submission to the popular idea of melody and development. He just rode a rhythm in repetition for nearly an hour. The trance like space this music occupies set the tone for all dance floor material that came about afterwards. If it sounds mundane and familiar to you, its just because everyone emulated this for the next decade and a half without much alteration. There ya go...Techno 101.

Here's a nice tribute reworking of one track by Ernestus and von Oswald over at the BCD:

Happy Birthday, Don!****Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - The Spotlight Kid (Reprise, 1972)

Its the only album that was credited soley to Don van Vliet. He wanted to make something a little more accessible. A little bit of bread was appealing. The band was barely eating, living off handouts. They hadn't made any money in three years. What did he do that was so radical? What did he do that made the band hate this collection of songs? What kind of extraordinary preposterous great lengths did he go to?

He wrote some slower songs. Yep, Downtempo. That's all. Slowing these songs down made his vocals feel more like a delta blues singer, garnering a bit of a new audience. This period of time was so tumultuous that the whole band almost abandoned him. Granted, there were more details, like Vliet throwing one of the guitarists into a dumpster as a metaphor. I'm sure the communal residence scenario probably began driving hungry unsatisfied musicians into emotional outbursts of all kinds.

Regardless, this is actually my favorite of his records. Go on, disagree. Lester Bangs liked it, so I stand my ground.

Here's one of my favorite live clips from that album era:

And here's the album in its entirety:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

HTRK - Work (Ghostly International, 2011)

One of my favorite musical scenes was created by the Mancunian crew of the 90's in Bristol UK. "The Wild Bunch", consisting most importantly of Massive Attack and Tricky, were highly influential with their groovy 80 bpm breaks and blunted rock meets dub aesthetic. Tricky took things down an increasingly darker path with his albums 'Maxinquaye' and one of my favorite albums, 'Pre-Millenium Tension'. The vibe is so spliffed on the latter that paranoia gets the best of the protagonist. Hallucinations or even actual acts of aggression and fear ensue, charting territory that, given his particular musical production, was unparalleled in pitch black narrative.

HTRK is similar to Tricky in many ways. Their delivery system just happens to be narcotic in nature. The dub basslines are there, backed by tastefully subtle 808 beats, various synthesizers and swirling ambient guitar. The concept is an original pastiche of Lynchian imagery, proto-punk and post-industrial.

The now duo (bassist Sean Stewart having committed suicide in 2010), intentionally blur all lines. Jonnine Standish's vocals are subdued, to the point of lyrical irrelevance (which I admire). The music itself is an existential road to nowhere. There aren't even really songs, merely moods of doubt and doom, sensually shared by a deceptively charming junkie siren.

To be quite frank, albums don't matter here. Any place is a good place to start. Again, its all a seductive coldwave psychosis. I'd gladly follow her down into the sea.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Crucified - S/T (Ocean, 1991)

So here it is. The truth comes out. I was a christian hardcore kid. There, I said it. Don't get me wrong, I stopped believing just shy of my eighteenth birthday. I discovered existentialism, communism, the occult, science, and many other tasty resources that still matter to me. For the next few years I convinced myself I was agnostic and sixteen years later, hear I am, the curmudgeonly old atheist anarchistic half-assed buddhist asshole music snob you all know and love.

I'll get to the point. Over the past few days, I've been in a thrash crossover rut. Lots of Cro-mags, Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., Gang Green, Discharge, etc. You know the drill. Anyway, one you may not know is The Crucified, a Fresno band formed in 1984. The had a killer self-titled release in '89 (sweet tape score when I was fourteen), and followed in '91 with "The Pillars of Humanity". I listened to this yesterday for the first time in over twenty years and it still rules. Yes they talk about social topics from a christian perspective. No, you don't like that. But, if you're reading this blog, there is a good chance you listen to some questionable black metal bands and you let that go, don't you? I don't give care about lyrics. I like the music and I hear the voice as just another instrument.

I liked the band so much, their logo was my first tattoo.

We Still Slay.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Beru / Aloonaluna Split - CS (Watery Starve, 2013)

Each year music writers make lists of their favorite albums. This takes a lot of hard work, time and thought. But, the most difficult part is making discoveries from said year after the fact, when its too late. So far, my regret is this one not being on my list.

Lynn Fister's Watery Starve is a great cassette label. Her own project,  Aloonaluna, really does it for me. Check out all of her releases. Both sides are fantastic but side A just took me off guard.

Beru (the name lifted from Luke Skywalker's aunt) describes her music as a Keiji Haino and Vashti Bunyan music baby, which in itself should intrigue you enough. Her side is quite a journey through forms.It begins with lovely soft ambient guitar a la dark shoegaze. This aligns with synth that feels like Gyorgy Ligeti light, lush haunting female vocals, and percussion. The swirling narrative eventually experiences some sort of temporal shift / wormhole that gives way to a ritual rhythm. This beat conjures a terrifying black metal drum machine blastbeat combined with the screams of a tortured banshee.

I'm just overwhelmed by this. Its blowing my mind. Buy the tape!!

BERU-Music Excerpt From The Split Cassette With Aloonaluna from Jessica Nicole Collins on Vimeo.

More about Beru HERE

Friday, January 10, 2014

Don Drumond - Jazz Ska Attack 1964 (Jet Set, 1999)

Drummond was one of the top soloists and most creative musical minds of Jamaica's ska era. His apex came in 1964 when he and fellow Skatalites, like saxophonists Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso, organist Jackie Mittoo, Lester Sterling, and trumpeter Johnny "Dizzy" Moore, ruled Kingston's musical scene as the virtual house band for producers Clement Dodd, Duke Reid, George Phang, and many others. Drummond's lopey sounding yet technically superb trombone work stood out on all the Skatalites sessions, whether the band was cutting some of its own records or backing numerous singers like Alton Ellis and Delroy Wilson. This fine Drummond roundup on Jet Set brings together many of the trombonist best Skatalites sides from 1964, including such self-penned classics as "Musical Storeroom," "Eastern Standard Time," and "Don-de-Lion." A great introduction to this most talented of Jamaican jazz masters. -All Music

Thursday, January 9, 2014

R.I.P. Amiri Baraka

I couldn't possibly do justice to any kind of obituary for this great man. I found this one. Does the trick.

Amiri Baraka Obituary

And these are three of my favorites:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bruce Langhorne - Hired Hand O.S.T. (vinyl release Scissor Tail Editions, 2012)

How this slipped through the cracks for 40 years is beyond me. First, the film is an 'Acid Western', and second,   the music is light years ahead of its time. Supposedly, Bruce Langhorne is literally Zimmy's inspiration for 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and he must have had magic powers, because his music is even compared to contemporary electronic and experimental artists.

From the Bandcamp:

Bruce Langhorne is most known for his session work with artists in and around the Greenwich Village folk scene during the 1960’s. He’s been credited as working with such artists as Bob Dylan, Odetta, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Babatunde Olatunji, Richie Havens, Carolyn Hester, Peter LaFarge, Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot... practically everyone active during that era. In addition to being the inspiration for Bob Dylan’s "Mr. Tambourine Man", Langhorne also played the electric guitar countermelody on the song. His guitar is also prominent on several other songs on Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home album, particularly "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "She Belongs to Me", but also "Subterranean Homesick Blues", "Outlaw Blues", "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" and "Maggie's Farm", on which he played the lead guitar part. He also played the guitar with Dylan for Dylan's television performances of "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue on the Les Crane Show a month after the Bringing It All Back Home sessions. Two years earlier, Langhorne had performed on Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan on "Corrina, Corrina" as well as the outtake "Mixed-Up Confusion".

 In 1969 Langhorne was asked by Peter Fonda to score his directorial debut. He decided to opt out of scoring the film in a projection room, instead chose to shoot the film onto a small black and white camera to take back to his home in Laurel Canyon. He would watch the film and play along to it as his girlfriend at the time would record him and play it back, allowing him to overdub Farfisa Organ, piano, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, recorder, and Appalachian dulcimer onto his Revox reel to reel. Bruce's 1920 Martin guitar is most prominent throughout the record. The Results were a uniquely wide and lonesome soundscape. The closest comparison might be Sandy Bull or possibly John Fahey, but nothing of its kind or even of it's time poses a resemblance to Langhorne's minimal masterpiece displayed here on vinyl for the first time.

The vinyl is hopelessly out of print but you can listen to the album and download it HERE.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Nattfog - Mustan Auringon Riitti (2013)

Its been entirely too long since a black metal band has been comfortable in the raw minus blastbeats, Apparently Finland is where its at for cold metallic crusty folks? Regardless, here is an example of no frills open hi hat chunk. This is crusty feeling blackness with questionable lyrical integrity, which is a bummer. I really like this band but there is rumor of NSBM leanings, just a heads up. Sorry. Its quite possible. I'm just not sure. Either way, this band slays. I admire the downtempo aesthetic. Finland kils it all.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nagual - S/T (Ergot, 2013)

I first saw Ian McHolm at a solo experimental percussion gig he performed last year. He was obviously proficient in jazz and improvisational techniques. More importantly, he was exceptional at combining his kit skills with various instrumentation to create a full wall of sound. Essentially, McHolm grasps how to actually be a 'one man band'.

He doesn't limit himself to solo recordings though. I listened to his Nagual Cassettes quite often after that night. This is the Oberlin, Ohio improvisational duo he has with David Shapiro, and a collaboration has finally yielded a killer 44 minute LP on Ergot Records.

The two musicians craft meticulous loops to create dark and powerful drones. From from piano and synth, to downright Fripp, these experiments meander toward a sense of doom. One track is even reminiscent of current Swans material, with its extended repetition building immense tension until a burst of drumming is released at the end. This is musician's music but with a deep narrative. Highly recommended!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pieter Nooten and Michael Brook - Sleeps With the Fishes (4AD, 1987)

On my annual winter way down memory lane, I always revisit that 80's 4AD sound. It had a phenomenal impact on me as a teenager. Hearing This Mortal Coil was life changing. I remember the moment I realized that these embarrassing tendencies I had of listening to Hearts of Space radio and Brian Eno's ambient work were ok. 4AD artists were dark and mysterious and goth. It was ok. Right? Maybe my punk / metal friends wouldn't get it but I suddenly didn't care.

This year's excursion has yielded this lovely discovery. By late 1987, Pieter Nooten had left Clan Of Xymox, but Ivo (bossman) continued to be intrigued by the tapes Pieter would send him. He suggested a team-up with guitarist/producer Michael Brook, who had been working with Brian Eno as well as recording for Eno's Opal label. The result was a quiet album of fragile songs and dreamlike soundscapes entitled Sleeps With The Fishes.

I don't know how I missed this album for so many years, as I'm also a big fan of Michael Mann. His album 'Night Song' with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Peter Gabriel's Secret World label) was educating and necessary listening for me. I was also very into his film scores (Captive, Heat).

This album produces a elegantly beautiful mix of ambient and chamber music, drifting between faux film score and ethereal vocal melodies. The strings, guitar and synthesizers are definitive 4AD but Nooten and Brook have their own particular chemistry that distinguishes them. Wonderfully somber.

R.I.P. Phil Everly

One of the purest and most honest sounds pop music has ever offered us was created by the Everly Brothers. Half of that equation has passed away today. Phil Everly is dead at 74. So much of my childhood was shrouded with his presence. Family roadtrips always included cassette tapes with his music. I occasionally get one of his songs stuck in my head and I never mind. Thanks, Phil. Our thoughts are with you, Don.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Oxbow - An Evil Heat (Neurot, 2002)

Let's get one thing clear right off the bat: Eugene Robinson's stage personnae is a manifestation of the devil. This six foot plus, muscle bound titan of a man ( a professional fighter and published author on the subject of fighting) wears only his briefs while jumping around stage singing about the most vile things imaginable. I've always compared him to a lyricist as dark and twisted as Nick Cave but without the confusing and beautiful poetic qualities. Don't get me wrong, there is a definitive poetry to Oxbow and their particular aesthetic, its just not pretty in any way. Think Michael Gira and David Yow both transplanted into the body of a heavyweight UFC champion. Oxbow has also been compared to "a spoiled Birthday Party".

Oxbow makes a bizarre blend of avant garde metal, blues, noise and odd time signatures of melancholy hardcore. Don't assume their just another stoner / sludge band because they release on Neurot. They are completely different from everything else, not just on the label, but anywhere.

The narrative of the album feels like a Faust story set in the crack house of the rising sun. This is unnerving, biting, cynical, depressing and nihilistic music. Unabashed hate, violence and misery is what you'll get here. Nothing else.

Oxbow is one of the greatest and most underrated bands of all time.

Listen to a playlist of the album here:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Richard Skelton - The Complete Landings Recordings & Book ( Aeolian, 2011)

In 2004, Richard Skelton's wife passed away. Apparently, his coping mechanism was almost decided for him. He spent the next five years exploring and remapping Anglezarke, an area on the West Pennine moors of Northern England. The book of his findings intertwines with a personal narrative, and this is accompanied by a score. The music is cello and guitar-based ambient experimental. Through the highs and lows, one can grasp his tumultuous emotional journey in a very clear way. Skelton makes incredibly powerful and moving music that, given his inspiration, is incomparable.

Download excerpts / order book and music HERE.

Listen to one of the three albums here:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

George Cartwright's Gloryland Ponycat - Black Ants Crawling (Innova, 2003)

Here's a cool Minnesota trio I recently discovered. They play improvisational jazz that doesn't sound contrived or pretentious, offering warm tones with subtle stabs and skronks. Free jazz for the uninitiated? Maybe. If you don't vibe with all the shrill cacophony of typical ESP-Disk routes (like I do) but want to dig on some jazz, give this a go. This is a powerful group with gentle finesse.