Monday, 22 July 2019

Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares – Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares (1986)

Style: Folk
Format: CD Vinyl
Label: 4AD, Disques Cellier, Nonesuch

Tracklist:
01.   Pilentze Pee (Pilentze Sings)
02.   Svatba (The Wedding)
03.   Kalimankou Denkou (The Evening Gathering)
04.   Strati Na Angelaki Doumasche (Haiduk Chant)
05.   Polegnala E Pschenitza (Harvest Chant From Thrace)
06.   Messetschinko Lio Greilivko (Love Chant From The Rhodopes)
07.   Breii Yvane (Dancing Song)
08.   Erghen Diado (Song Of Schopsko With Tapan And Spoons)
09.   Sableyalo Mi Agontze (The Bleating Lamb)
10.   Pritouritze Planinata (Chant From The Thracian Plain With Orchestra)
11.   Mir Stanke Le (Harvest Chant From Thrace)
12.   Schopska Pesen (Diaphonic Chant)
13.   Polegnala E Todora (Love Chant)

Credits:
Choir – The Bulgarian State Radio And Television Female Vocal Choir
Directed By – Philip Koutev, Krasimir Kyurkchiyski
Mastered By – Robert C. Ludwig
Recorded By – Marcel Cellier

In the late 1980s, the cult record label home to spiky guitar bands like Bauhaus and Pixies suddenly signed a choir of Bulgarian women in traditional national costume. 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell had become entranced by the former Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir (est. 1952). Now, over 20 years after their albums were bought by bemused Cocteau Twins fans, Le Mystère's international following includes Abba and Kate Bush. 
The fascination concerns one of the most unique sounds in music: multi-part a capella arrangements delivered by up to 19 women. The "mystery" is in just how they combine diaphonic singing and dissonant harmonies to produce a breathtaking, otherworldly sound somewhere between the Muslim call to prayer and the Beach Boys. With any two voices sounding like 20 and another lady "conducting", they are an orchestra of voice. 
Their renditions of old Bulgarian folk songs about harvests, illness and God are tear-jerking, emotional and profound, but delivered with smiling faces and unexpected humour. Their costumes and headgear are so knowingly over the top, you half-expect Borat to tumble on stage clutching a hen. It's somehow reassuring to discover that the supernatural voices occasionally tackle such ethereal concerns as Galabi Goukat ("Pigeons are cooing"). Occasionally, they break off into titters or end a song with an exaggerated "Yeeeeeeeee!" 
Returning in the sort of gowns worn by Celine Dion, with big hair, they push their voices even further. A section titled "Comic songs" sounds like a giant barbershop quartet. Listni Se Goro, with an astonishing soloist, is particularly jawdropping. Then they take a collective bow and each gives a little wave goodbye, having provided an aural experience that, once heard, will never be forgotten. 
Dave Simpson / The Guardian

Sunday, 21 July 2019

VA ‎– 12"/80s Alternative (2011)

Style:  New Wave, Psychedelic Rock, Electro, Downtempo, Synth-pop
Format: CD
Label: Universal UMC

Tracklist:
1-01.   New Order - Blue Monday (1983 12" Version)
1-02.   Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome To The Pleasuredome (An Alternative To Reality)
1-03.   Soft Cell - Memorabilia (Extended)
1-04.   Tears For Fears - Suffer The Children (Remix)
1-05.   B-Movie - Nowhere Girl (Version)
1-06.   The Lover Speaks - Every Lover's Sign (New Extended Mix)
1-07.   Furniture - Brilliant Mind (Extended Mix)
1-08.   Scritti Politti - Absolute (Version)
1-09.   Talk Talk - Living In Another World (Extended Remix)
1-10.   The Lotus Eaters - The First Picture Of You (12" Version)
1-11.   Japan - Nightporter (Extended Remix)
2-01.   Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (Original 12" Mix)
2-02.   Killing Joke - Love Like Blood (Version)
2-03.   The Damned - Eloise (Extravagant Mix)
2-04.   The Mission - Wasteland (Anniversary Mix)
2-05.   Sisters Of Mercy - Lucretia My Reflection (Extended Remix)
2-06.   Siouxsie & The Banshees - Cities In Dust (Extended Eruption Mix)
2-07.   All About Eve - Every Angel (Extended)
2-08.   Jesus And Mary Chain - April Skies (12" Version)
2-09.   Spear Of Destiny - Liberator (Extended Mix)
2-10.   The Fall - Telephone Thing (Extended Mix)
2-11.   The Cure - Hot Hot Hot !!! (Extended Remix)
3-01.   Simple Minds - Up On The Catwalk (Extended Version)
3-02.   Echo And The Bunnymen - Bring On The Dancing Horses (Extended Mix)
3-03.   Big Country - In A Big Country (Pure Mix)
3-04.   Prefab Sprout - Faron Young (Truckin' Mix)
3-05.   Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - Cut Me Down (Extended Remix)
3-06.   Julian Cope - The Greatness And Perfection Of Love (Remixed Version)
3-07.   The Psychedelic Furs - Heartbeat (New York Remix)
3-08.   Visage - Frequency 7 (Dance Mix)
3-09.   Yello - Bostich (Full Length Mix)
3-10.   Jah Wobble / Jaki Liebezeit / Holger Czukay - How Much Are They? (12" Version)
3-11.   Anne Clark - Our Darkness (Remix)
3-12.   Cabaret Voltaire - Yashar (John Robie Mix 1)
3-13.   Propaganda - p: Machinery (Polish)

Thursday, 18 July 2019

The Triffids ‎– The Triffids Present The Black Swan (1989)

Style: Folk Rock, Pop Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CDVinyl
Label: White Hot, Polystar, Island Records

Tracklist:
01.   Too Hot To Move, Too Hot To Think
02.   American Sailors
03.   Falling Over You
04.   Goodbye Little Boy
05.   Bottle Of Love
06.   The Spinning Top Song
07.   Butterflies Into Worms
08.   The Clown Prince
09.   Good Fortune Rose
10.   New Year's Greetings (The Country Widower)
11.   One Mechanic Town
12.   Blackeyed Susan
13.   Fairytale Love

Credits:
Acoustic Guitar – David McComb, Evil Graham Lee
Backing Vocals – Evil Graham Lee, Phil Kakulas
Bass – Martyn P. Casey
Double Bass – Phil Kakulas
Drum Programming – Alsy MacDonald
Drums – Alsy MacDonald
Electric Guitar – David McComb, Evil Graham Lee
Keyboards – Jill Birt
Organ – David McComb
Piano – Adam Peters
Steel Guitar – Evil Graham Lee
Tambourine – Alsy MacDonald
Vocals – David McComb
Producer (Assistant) – David McComb
Producer, Engineer – Stephen Street

Black Swan was intended to be the Triffids' White Album. As is the often the way with such things, it wasn't - though the band's leader, the late David McComb, certainly had no shortage of ideas on how acoustic and electronic music could be put together. (Too many ideas, in fact: half of this could be painlessly dropped.) As cousins of The The and Lloyd Cole's sweepingly dramatic, lyrical, 1980s indie-rock, the Triffids are placed neatly between Orange Juice's shorts'n'sandals romanticism and pin-sharp 2008 indie-pop such as the Elephants. But they're also capable of producing some wonderfully strange music. Good Fortune Rose has a beautiful vocal from the band's keyboard player, Jill Burt; a rather charming banjo part; New Order melodies; and Run-DMC kick-drums - a sadly rare occurrence in pop. Fairytale Love invents Tindersticks, and The Spinning Top Song throbs like Yello. Falling Over You even features a rap. In 1989, it seems, anything was possible. 
Rob Fitzpatrick / The Guardian

The Triffids ‎– Calenture (1987)

Style: Folk Rock, Pop Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: White Hot, Polystar, Island Records

Tracklist:
01.   Bury Me Deep In Love
02.   Kelly's Blues
03.   A Trick Of The Light
04.   Hometown Farewell Kiss
05.   Unmade Love
06.   Open For You
07.   Holy Water
08.   Blinder By The Hour
09.   Vagabond Holes
10.   Jerdacuttup Man
11.   Calenture
12.   Save What You Can

Credits:
Backing Vocals Arranged By– Craig Leon
Strings Arranged By, Co-producer – Adam Peters
Music By, Lyrics By – David McComb
Producer – Gil Norton
Musicians – Alsy MacDonald, Ben Hoffnung, Billy Kinsley, "Evil" Graham Lee, Jane Norton, Jill Birt, Keith Hancock, Martyn Casey, Mick Doonan, Nick Allum, Sean Pugh

The Triffids were never labeled as a Christian band, but there's an undeniably spiritual feel to several of the songs on Calenture. Moreover, vocalist David McComb spews his words with the fiery passion of a backwoods preacher. The orchestral sweep of "Bury Me Deep in Love" recalls the Waterboys' expansive sound; the lyrics are unmistakably religious as McComb looks for salvation in a chapel. Fans of Nick Cave will immediately be seduced by McComb's bluesy croon; deep and brimming with palpable sorrow, McComb's voice never dwindles in intensity. "A Trick of the Light" opens like a lullaby with its twinkling synths; the pitter-patter of the drums augments the track's dreamlike ambience. The lyrics, however, read like the tortured confessions of a man obsessed with an ex-lover: "You remind very much/Of someone that I used to know/We used to take turns crying all night." The striking images in Calenture illustrate the predicaments of each song's characters. The hallucinations suffered by the woman in "Kelly's Blues" are vividly drawn: "Her tree blew over/I shook her branches down/The wind and I, we howled around her door/Now there's a buckle in the sky, lightning on the shore." The grim "Vagabond Holes" details the anger of romantic rejection with unflinching bitterness. Stoked by sinister guitars and pummeling drums, McComb unleashes a volley of vindictive thoughts: "No one's going to love you when you're wrinkled and old/No teeth in your gum, your hair the colour of snow." The Triffids released one more LP, The Black Swan, before the band split up and McComb sadly passed away. McComb's explosive rage at the finale of "Vagabond Holes" should have been the Triffids' last gasp, an unsettling blast of scarred emotions that isn't easy to shake off. 
Michael Sutton / AllMusic

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The Triffids ‎– Born Sandy Devotional (1986)

Style: Alternative Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: BMG, Virgin, Rough Trade, Megadisc

Tracklist:
01.   The Seabirds
02.   Estuary Bed
03.   Chicken Killer
04.   Tarrilup Bridge
05.   Lonely Stretch
06.   Wide Open Road
07.   Life Of Crime
08.   Personal Things
09.   Stolen Property
10.   Tender Is The Night (The Long Fidelity)

Credits
Backing Vocals – Fay Brown, Sally Collins
Cello, Keyboards – Adam Peters
Piano, Vibraphone – Chris Abrahams
Viola – Lesley Wynne
Written-By – David McComb
Arranged By – The Triffids
Producer – Gil Norton, The Triffids

Hailing from Western Australia, the Triffids sound something like a cross of two of their mid-1980s Aussie compatriots, the Go-Betweens and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (which Triffids bassist Martyn Casey would later join). On this album (produced by Gil Norton, who would become famous for his work with the Pixies) the band integrated a steel-guitar player with guitar, violin, and keyboard and conjured a wide-open atmospheric sound that counterbalanced the claustrophobic lyrics of singer-songwriter David McComb, who here seems largely fixated on betrayal, loneliness, death, suicide, and other such cheerful topics. (McComb would later die after a car accident and subsequent drug overdose in 1999.) 
Like an antipodean Stan Ridgway, McComb spins noirish tales from a first-person perspective that invite comparison to short stories even though they unfold in evocative fragments. Born Sandy Devotional's first track, "The Seabirds", is a perfect example, opening straightaway with the Didionesque line, "No foreign pair of dark sunglasses will ever shield you from the light that pierces your eyelids or the screaming of the gulls". Over sweeping steel guitar licks and punctuating string flourishes, McComb relates the story of a man planning to drown himself in the ocean, interspersing it with gruesome imagery of birds picking carcasses on the strand and climaxing with an encounter with caustic, nameless strangers in a seashore motel who castigate him for his drunken futility.
That's followed by the album's most inviting song, "Estuary Bed", which also conjures up the seaside, but in nostalgic and picturesque tones. What the repeated tagline "Sleep no more, sleep is dead" means, however, remains open to interpretation. "Wide Open Road" tells of a man tracking the lover who deserted him, cutting his friends and family off "like limbs" as he goes, and "Stolen Property" is both a slow-building admonition to an absent lover who is "just an aphorism for any occasion" and to the singer's own uncooperative heart, either of which may be the object to which the title refers. 
But as nuanced as his lyrics could be, there's nothing subtle about McComb's vocal delivery, which is booming, declamatory, and deadly serious in every instance. He has a deep, full-throated croon, similar to Nick Cave's, but unlike Cave McComb doesn't always modulate it so as to avoid the pomposity and inadvertent Jim Morrison parody such a voice can suggest. "Lonely Stretch", which opens like an outtake from Springsteen's Nebraska, telling of a night drive to nowhere, builds to a foreboding sha-la-la chorus reminiscent of the Sisters of Mercy, and the overplayed dread grows maudlin and undermines the menacing mood the band seemed to be shooting for. If McComb's voice has its shortcomings, that's nothing compared to keyboardist Jill Birt, whose thin, tuneless, and bodiless voice detracts from every song on which it is discernible. Her lead turns on "Tarrilup Bridge" and "Tender Is the Night" ruin otherwise compelling songs, and her harmonies on "Chicken Killer" do nothing to help the unfortunate chorus: "Here he comes, the chicken killer again". 
Nevertheless, Born Sandy Devotional works well as an entire album; the weaker cuts support the stronger ones even if they can't stand alone. They sustain the melancholia while throwing the better songs into heightened relief, making playing the album in its entirety feel like a well-rounded, complete experience. Such experiences are becoming rare; with sales-by-the-song services and expanded reissues repeatedly coming out, no one worries too much about the integrity of an album as a whole. Hence, this Domino reissue includes nine bonus tracks -- some worthy enough ("Time of Weakness", "Convent Walls"), some sounding unfinished (the title track, "White Shawl", "Wish to See No More"), but all obviously were excluded originally for a reason. 
Still, the experience of Born Sandy Devotional is not one you're likely to want to have every day, but on that day when you want to be carried away to a fully imagined place where emotions are a little more desperate and extreme, when you want your desire to escape dramatized in romantic terms without losing any of its complexity or ambivalence, you'll be glad to have this. 
Bob Horning / popMATTERS

The Triffids ‎– In The Pines (1986)

Style: Folk Rock, Pop Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Hot Records, Virgin, BMG, White Hot

Tracklist:
01.   Suntrapper
02.   In The Pines
03.   Kathy Knows
04.   25 To 5
05.   Do You Want Me Near You?
06.   Once A Day
07.   Just Might Fade Away
08.   Better Off This Way
09.   Only One Life
10.   Keep Your Eyes On The Hole
11.   One Soul Less On Your Fiery List
12.   Born Sandy Devotional
13.   Love And Affection

Credits:
Producer – Bruce Callaway, David McComb

In the nearly 20 years that have passed since Aussie rockers the Triffids disbanded, memory of their work has largely faded. But for a couple of years in the middle of the '80s they were a promising young act, releasing three excellent albums in succession, starting with 1986's Born Sandy Devotional. That record, generally regarded as their masterpiece, was reissued by Domino last year to critical acclaim. The other two -- In the Pines and Calenture -- now follow, completing the picture of a band at the height of their powers and giving '80s fans a chance to discover one that decade’s forgotten talents. 
Calenture, the later of the two discs, is the Triffids' most ambitious effort. Produced by Gil Norton, who also helmed work for Echo and the Bunnymen, the record's majestic gloom makes comparisons to their more popular English counterparts inevitable. But thanks to songs like "Blinder By the Hour" and the gospel-tinged "Bury Me Deep in Love", the Triffids are able to weather them. David McComb's formidable voice drives the songs like an engine, equal parts Nick Cave and Bruce Springsteen, as choirs, pianos, strings, horns, woodwinds -- even bagpipes and harpsichords -- swirl around him. By time the album's last chords have faded away, it's easy to see why Domino felt the Triffids were worthy of a re-release -- why they haven't already found a home on the retro airwaves like so many of their contemporaries is less clear. 
In the Pines, in contrast to the album that came after it, is a stripped-down affair. Looking to return to their roots after the break-through success of Born Sandy Devotional, the Triffids set off into the Australian outback to record their follow up. Laid down on an eight-track in five days with a budget of only a thousand dollars (alcohol: $340), In the Pines peels away the sheen of '80s production, allowing McComb's songwriting talent to take centre stage. The modest instrumentation exposes a band with a range of talents that extend far beyond the contemporary influences displayed on their other records: the sharp electric guitar on "Love and Affection" recalls the Velvet Underground; "Do You Want Me Near You" foreshadows the Britpop harmonies of the Super Furry Animals; the sing-along cover of Bill Anderson's "Once a Day" showcases a love of country music usually limited to an occasional steel guitar. In the Pines maybe not have the same grandiose sweep as Calenture, but it does have plenty to offer. 
The creative flurry of those few days in the spring of 1986 are made even more impressive when seen in the light of the extra tracks resurrected for this reissue. "Blinder By the Hour", "A Trick of the Light" and " Jerdacuttup Man" are all among Calenture's best tracks, and each is revealed here to have been originally recorded during the making of In the Pines. The woolshed sessions not only produced that album, but laid much of the creative groundwork for the record that was to follow. While Domino's decision to scatter these songs among the original tracks rather than placing them at the end of the record seems questionable, to have them unearthed here makes for a valuable discovery. Along with a feminized cover of The Crystal's hit "He’s Sure the Boy I Love" and a fleshed out version of the originally too-brief "Born Sandy Devotional", they lend more depth to an already satisfying listen. The bonus tracks included with Calenture, by comparison, are weak and unappealing, seeming to foreshadow 1989's disappointing The Black Swan (there’s rapping). 
Together, Calenture and In the Pines make for an impressive listen and show the Triffids to be a band worthy of their influences. They may not have won themselves a place in the cannon of ‘80s rockers, but these are two records that should find a happy home in the record collection of anyone who loves the sweeping melancholic sounds of the Me Decade. 
Adam Bunch / popMATTERS

Friday, 12 July 2019

The Triffids ‎– Treeless Plain (1984)

Style: Folk Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Megadisc, Hot Records,Domino

Tracklist:
01.   Red Pony
02.   Branded
03.   My Baby Thinks She's A Train
04.   Rosevel
05.   I Am A Lonesome Hobo
06.   Place In The Sun
07.   Plaything
08.   Old Ghostrider
09.   Hanging Shed
10.   Hell Of A Summer
11.   Madeline
12.   Nothing Can Take Your Place

The Triffids' first single was released in 1981, but the band's full-length debut, Treeless Plain, didn't emerge until two years later. By then, the group had relocated from Perth to Sydney and solidified its lineup with the addition of Jill Birt (keyboards) and Martyn Casey (bass). Although frontman and principal songwriter David McComb drew on a primarily American rock tradition for inspiration (Bob Dylan, the Doors, Television, and the Velvet Underground), the resulting songs were always inextricably linked to his native Western Australian environment. Indeed, the title of this album refers to the Nullarbor ("No Tree") Plain, the desolate area the band regularly traversed en route to Perth's nearest significant neighbor, Adelaide -- a 32-hour drive. Comprising material that had been honed in live performance and recorded over a dozen midnight-to-dawn sessions, Treeless Plain underscores the Triffids' knack for blending folk and country with indie rock in a way that anticipated the rise of alt-country in the '90s. While "A Place in the Sun" and "Rosevel" attest to that dimension of the band's sound, it is best embodied in the majestic "Red Pony," with its hypnotic, mournful strings. McComb's characteristically dark narratives are also well-represented -- for instance, the bass-heavy groove, syncopated percussion, and stinging guitar of "Hanging Shed" suggesting a more melodic version of the Birthday Party. The energized, thumping makeover of Dylan's "I Am a Lonesome Hobo" and the driving "A Hell of a Summer," both featuring McComb's vocals at their most commanding and resonant, rightfully remained live favorites until the band's demise. Treeless Plain piqued interest in the U.K. -- where the band ultimately enjoyed the bulk of its success -- and offered incontrovertible evidence of McComb's skill as a songwriter with a unique lyrical and musical vision that would be fully realized on Born Sandy Devotional. 
Wilson Neate / AllMusic

VA ‎– Musica Futurista: The Art Of Noises (2004)

Style: Noise, Experimental, Spoken Word
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Salon Recordings, Multhipla Records

Tracklist:
01.   Filippo Tommaso Marinetti - Definizione Di Futurism
        La Guerra - Three Dances For Orchestra, Op 32
02.   Francesco Balilla Pratella - 1. L'aspettazione
03.   Francesco Balilla Pratella - 2. La Battaglia
04.   Francesco Balilla Pratella - 3. La Vittoria
05.   Filippo Tommaso Marinetti - La Battaglia Di Adrianopoli
06.   Luigi Russolo - Risveglio Di Una Citta
        Intonarumori Samples
07.   Luigi Russolo - 1. Gorgogliatore (Gurgler)
08.   Luigi Russolo - 2. Ronzatore (Buzzer)
09.   Luigi Russolo - 3. Ululatore (Hooter)
10.   Luigi Russolo - 4. Crepitatore (Crackler)
*
11.   Antonio Russolo - Corale
12.   Antonio Russolo Serenata
13.   Filippo Tommaso Marinetti & Aldo Giuntini - Sintesi Musicali Futuristiche
14.   Aldo Giuntini - The India Rubber Man (Foxtrot)
15.   Luigi Grandi - Aeroduello (Dinamosintesi)
16.   Silvio Mix - Two Preludes From 'Gli Stati D'Animo'
17.   Silvio Mix - Profilo Sintetico - Musicale Di Marinetti
18.   Franco Casavola - Prelude To 'Prigionieri'
19.   Franco Casavola - Danza Della Scimmie
20.   Alfredo Casella - Pupazzetti
21.   Filippo Tommaso Marinetti - Parole In Liberta
22.   Matty Malneck & Frank Signorelli - Futurist Caprice
23.   Filippo Tommaso Marinetti - Cinque Sintesi Radiofoniche

Credits:
Piano – Daniele Lombardi
Sounds (Intonarumori) – Daniele Lombardi
Tape (Sound Sources) – Daniele Lombardi

In his founding Manifesto of February 1909, Futurist leader Filipo Tomasso Marinetti confirmed that the Futurist ideology would include sound and noise in the armoury of the war against traditionalism. The roar of a motor car, so he claimed, was more beautiful than anything by Michaelangelo. Moreover Futurists would 'sing in praise of the gliding flight of aeroplanes with their propellers screeching in the wind like a flag, and their roar reminiscent of the applause of an enthusiastic crowd.' 
However, Marinetti concerned himself chiefly with poetry and literature, and the first Manifesto of Futurist Composers would not appear for another two years. Published in January 1911 by Francesco Balilla Pratella (1880-1955), though tweaked by Marinetti, the text was hurled like a grenade into the midst of the prevailing culture. Condemning existing musical forms such as opera and bel canto as anti-progressive, Pratella exhorted 'young composers' to abandon the old order and adopt 'free study' as a means of regeneration. The future, he wrote, lay in: 'The liberation of individual musical sensibility from all imitation or influence of the past. To feel and sing with the mind turned to the future, drawing inspiration and aesthetics from nature, through all the human and non-human phenomena present in it. To exhalt man as a symbol that is constantly renewed by the varied aspects of modern life and in its infinity of intimate relationships with nature.' 
For all his rhetoric, Pratella was an essentially conventional composer, and the 1911 Manifesto was remarkably vague in discussing contemporary musical trends. The only German mentioned was Richard Strauss, praised for his 'struggle to fight the past with innovation and ingenuity' despite being handicapped by commercial instincts and a 'banality of soul'. In France, Debussy was singled out as defying tradition, along with the 'musically inferior' Gustave Charpentier. Other Europeans deemed worthy of note included Elgar, Mussorgsky and Sibelius, but none of them were radicals, and all had been born well before 1870. 
In fact the Manifesto was outdated even before it appeared. Pratella had drawn from earlier essays by Ferruchio Busoni and Domenico Alaleone, and his text was somewhat provincial. Between Paris, Vienna and Berlin radical new music was being produced by composers such as Ravel, Satie, Bartok, Stravinsky (lately arrived in France with Diaghilev) and the Schoenberg school. For all his talk of liberation and Futurism, Pratella had identified Debussy alone. 
Two months later, in March 1911, Pratella published his Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music, followed in July 1912 by The Destruction of Quadrature. Both promoted free or irregular rhythms, enharmonic music, atonality, polyphony and micro-tones. Pratella later collected all three Manifestos in a single volume, which also contained a piano score for his own composition, Futurist Music for Orchestra. Although it bears little trace of atonality, the piece still managed to cause a stir when first performed at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome in 21 February 1913. There, amidst uproar from the audience, the bewildered composer rushed from the stage in panic, complaining to Marinetti that half the orchestra had disappeared. Pratella followed Futurist Music with an opera, L'Aviatore Dro, written in 1915 and first performed in 1920. Despite some provocative captioning, however, and the use of intonarumori (see below) as the hero's plane crashed into the ground, the piece was essentially conventional. 
If Pratella failed to put his theories into practise in his own music, his proposals would have a profound effect within the Futurist movement. The principle exponent was the painter Luigi Russolo (1885-1947), whose vast canvas Music from 1911-12 had already depicted its subject as a swirl of keyboard crescendos assailing the player's head. In March 1913 Russolo published The Art of Noises (L'arte dei rumori), now seen as the true manifesto of Futurist music, and far closer to Marinetti's radical conception of free words (parole in liberta) than Pratella's fuzzy theorising. 
In The Art of Noises Russolo flaunted his anti-qualifications with pride: 'I am not a musician by profession, and therefore I have no acoustical prejudices, nor any works to defend. I am a Futurist painter who projects beyond himself, into an art much-loved and studied, his desire to renew everything. Thus, bolder than a professional musician, unconcerned by my apparent incompetence, and convinced that my audacity opens up all rights and all possibilities, I am able to divine the great renewal of music by means of the Art of Noises.' 
Using Pratella's theories as his starting point, Russolo declared that 'noise is triumphant and reigns sovereign over the sensibility of men. 'Instead of conventional melodies and sounds, predictably ordered, he proposed a form of musique concrete including noise, din and cacophony, be it the primary sounds of nature or the roar of machines in the modern city. 'Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes. We will delight in distinguishing the eddying of water, of air and gas in metal pipes, the muttering of motors that breathe and pulse with an indisputable animality, the throbbing of valves, the bustle of pistons, the shrieks of mechanical saws, the jolting of trams on the tracks, the cracking of whips, the flapping of awnings and flags. We will amuse ourselves by orchestrating together in our imagination the din of rolling shop shutters, slamming doors, the varied hubbub of train stations, iron works, thread mills, printing presses, electrical plants and subways.' 
To this end Luigi Russolo began to construct noise intoners (intonarumori) in his Milan laboratory, where he was assisted by another likeminded painter, Ugo Piatti. The intoners were essentially crude synthesisers, intended to reproduce a variety of modern noises, and able to regulate their harmony, pitch and rhythm. The instruments contained various motors and mechanisms operated by means of a protruding handle, while pitch was varied by means of a lever and a sliding scale. 
The Art of Noises was quoted and discussed in a variety of journals and newspapers across Europe, and mocked more often than not. The first intonarumori demonstration came on 2 June 1913 at the Teatro Storchi in Modena, when Russolo unveiled an exploder (scoppiatore) which reproduced the sound of an internal combustion engine with a range of ten notes. Most of those in the 2000 strong audience were not yet ready to adopt his 'Futurist Ear', however, and a flurry of enraged newspaper articles accused Russolo of producing a cacophonous din devoid of logic, based on an elitist theory intended to shock the bourgeois. In fact din seems an unlikely descriptive term, since Russolo was too early to profit from electrical amplification, and instead relied on large megaphones to project his noises - an unsatisfactory arrangement which may in part explain why most of his early public performances may be objectively judged as failures. 
Russolo answered his critics in a series of articles in the magazine Lacerba, and at the same time explained the mechanics of the intonarumori: 'It was necessary for practical reasons that the noise intoner be as simple as possible, and this we succeeded in doing. It is enough to say that s ingle stretched diaphragm placed in the right position gives, when its tension is varied, a scale of more than ten tones, complete with all the passages of semi-tones, quarter-tones and even all the tiniest fractions of tones. The preparation of the material for these diaphragms is carried out with special chemical baths, and varies according to the timbre of noise required. By varying the way in which the diaphragm itself is moved, further types and timbres of noise can be obtained while retaining the possibility of varying the tone.' 
By the Spring of 1914 Russolo and Piatti had constructed four intonarumori - the exploder, crackler (crepitatori), buzzer (ronzatori) and scraper (stropicciatori) - and had published scores for two 'noise networks' titled Risveglio di una città (The Awakening of a City) and Convegno d'aeroplani e d'automobili (The Meeting of Automobiles and Aeroplanes). Thus prepared, Russolo gave a salon demonstration of this new music at the house of Marinetti, attended by sundry Futurists (Pratella included) as well as Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Diaghilev and Leonide Massine. Indeed Stravinsky had already expressed interest in incorporating a noise intoner in one of his ballets. In his memoir Le serate futuriste (1930), Francesco Canguillo recalled the evening thus: 
'Pratella, the swan of Romagna, arrived in Milan hoping to find that none of the guests had turned up, and that he would not have to play a note. But he was dragged to the piano and forced to play and sing his music with a mouth that would rather have opened to a good bowl of fish soup. Somehow or other the piece was finished, and Russolo approached one of the eight or nine Noise Intoners. A Crackler crackled and set up a thousand sparks like a gloomy torrent. Stravinsky leapt from the divan like an exploding bedspring, with a whistle of overjoyed excitement. At the same time a Rustler rustled like silk skirts, or like new leaves in April. The frenetic composer hurled himself on the piano in an attempt to find that prodigious onomatopoetic sound, but in vain did his avid fingers explore all the semi-tones. 
'Meanwhile the male dancer [Massine] swung his professional legs. Diaghilev went 'Ah, Ah' like a startled quail, and that for him was the highest sign of approval. By moving his legs the dancer was trying to say that the strange symphony was danceable, while Marinetti, happier than ever, ordered tea, cakes and liqueurs. Boccioni whispered to Carra that the guests were won over. The only person who remained unmoved was Russolo himself. He tweaked his goatee beard and said that there was a lot to modify: he hated praise. As a polite murmur of disagreement started, Piatti declared that experiments would have to begin again from scratch. Stravinsky and the Slav pianist played a frenzied four-handed version of the Firebird, and Pratella slept soundly through it all.' 
The first public performance with the intonarumori took place at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan on 21 April 1914. Russolo and Piatti were due to perform three pieces (The Awakening of a City, The Meeting of Automobiles and Aeroplanes and Dining on the Hotel Terrace), but following a rehearsal during the afternoon the show was banned by the police on the grounds that it was likely trigger a public disturbance. After two local politicians intervened on the side of the Futurists the show went ahead, with predictable results. Russolo recalled that 'the immense crowd were already in uproar half an hour before the performance', with missiles were thrown throughout, abuse supposedly led by 'past-ist' music professors from the Royal Conservatory of Milan. The noise of the brawl drowned out the new music, and Marinetti later described the experience of demonstrating the intoners to an incredulous public as 'like showing the first steam engine to a heard of cows.' 
Russolo was afterwards obliged to appear in court, having struck Agostino Cameroni, a critic from the Catholic newspaper L'Italia, who was said to have published 'insults and frivolous defamations' of Futurism. Russolo was acquitted and gave a second performance in Genoa on 20 May, although the show was judged a failure after his original intonarumori performers were unable to attend, and replaced with untrained substitutes at the last minute. 
Russolo and Piatti were still less successful in London in June. At the Coliseum the pair gave twelve performances of The Awakening of a City and The Meeting of Automobiles and Aeroplanes, billed as two 'noise spirals' generated by an 'orchestra' of 23 intonarumori, including buzzers, scrapers, exploders, cracklers, gurglers (gorgogliatori), roarers (rombatori), howlers (ululatori), rustlers (frusciatori), whistlers (sibilatori) and croakers (gracidatori). Marinetti also delivered a lecture on the new Art of Noises, but the first of these shows generated only puzzlement and hostility. It hardly helped that Russolo was obliged to man his intonarumori with bemused musicians from the Coloseum house orchestra. According to the English Futurist Richard Nevinson, writing in his memoir Paint and Prejudice (1937): 
'Marinetti swaggered onto the vast stage looking about the size of a housefly and bowed. As he spoke no English there was no time wasted with explanations or in the preparation of his audience. Had they understood Italian, I do believe Marinetti could have magnetised them as he did everybody else. There was nothing for it, however, but to call upon his ten noise-tuners to play, so they turned handles like those of a hurdy-gurdy. It must have sounded magnificent to him for he beamed, but a little way back in the audience, all one could hear was the faintest of buzzes. At first the audience did not understand that this was the performance offered them in return for their hard-earned cash, but when they did there was one vast, deep and long sustained 'Boo!'' 
Nevinson's account suggests that fewer intonarumori reached London than anticipated, while the addition of an Elgar gramophone record to play over the top of Futurist pieces on subsequent nights prompted only stony silence. If music is language, it seems that London audiences found Russolo even less comprehensible than Marinetti. By the end of the run, several thousands of people had been exposed to the music of the Future. Yet although Marinetti deemed the season a triumph, the British press were less effusive. According to the Times on 16 June, the music from Russolo's: 
'Weird funnel-shaped instruments resembled the sounds heard in the rigging of a channel-steamer during a bad crossing, and it was, perhaps, unwise of the players - or should we call them 'noisicians? - to proceed with their second piece. After the pathetic cries of 'no more' which greeted them from all the excited quarters of the auditorium The audience seemed to be of the opinion that Futurist music had better be kept for the Future. At all events, they show an earnest desire not to have it at present.' 
The outbreak of the First World War curtailed Futurist activity outside Italy, and killed Russolo's plans for further European performances. Marinetti and other Futurists enlisted in the Lombard Volunteer Cyclist Battalion in July 1914, apparently the speediest unit in King Victor Emmanuel's army, although Italy did not enter the war until May of the following year. But Italy's war was conducted in a haphazard and incompetent fashion, and would cost the Futurists dear. According to Marinetti, thirteen of their number were killed, and forty-one wounded. Luigi Russolo, the creator of noise spirals and the intonarumori, suffered a serious head wound at Monte Grappa in 1917 which required cranial surgery and a year of recuperation. It seems likely that this injury caused him to reconsider his earlier appraisal of modern war as a 'marvellous and grand and tragic symphony.' 
In June 1921 Russolo and his younger brother Antonio (1977-1942) staged a performance at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, from which a quarrelsome Dada faction lead by Tristan Tzara had to be forcibly ejected. Here Russolo demonstrated how the intonarumori might work as part of a conventional orchestra, and possibly performed the Corale and Serenata recorded by Antonio in 1924. But Dadas such as Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes gave the Futurists short thrift. "The Italian bruitistes, led by Marinetti, were giving a performance of works written for their new instruments. These works were pale, insipid and melodious in spite of Russolo's noise-music, and the Dadaists who attended did not fail to express their feelings - and very loudly. Marinetti asked indulgence for Russolo, who had been wounded in the war and had undergone a serious operation on his skull. This moved the Dadaists to demonstrate violently how little impressed they were by a reference to the war." 
Later innovations included a noise harmonium (rumorarmonio) and an enharmonic bow, and Russolo provided live soundtracks to several avant-garde films at Studio 28. However the advent of talking pictures closed this avenue, and Russolo performed in public for the last time in 1929. Tasting poverty and disappointment, he abandoned Futurism in favour of mysticism, supernature and the occult, publishing his book Beyond the Material World in 1938 and passing away on 4 February 1947. 
Luigi Russolo is without doubt one of the most underrated figures of the 20th century avant-garde. It is tragic that none of his instruments survive today, and that most of his music scores are also lost. As John Cage observed ruefully in 1946, as a composer Russolo exists only as a name, it being his fate to be a pioneer decades ahead of his time, and the requisite technology. Although his extraordinary ideas met with fierce resistance, his work exerted a powerful influence on a number of leading avant-garde and experimental composers, initially Igor Stravinsky, George Antheil and Arthur Honegger, and later John Cage, Edgard Varese, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Harry Partch, as well as 'non-classical' electronica and avant-rock. Force of circumstance means that this CD can only offer a small part of the canon of Futurist music, but these tantalizing fragments are no less fascinating for that. 
James Nice / LMT Recordings

Was (Not Was) ‎– Out Come The Freaks (2003 Reissue) (1981)

Style: Dub, Disco
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: ZE Records, Island Records

Tracklist:
01.   Wheel Me Out (Long Version)
02.   Out Come The Freaks
03.   Where Did Your Heart Go?
04.   Tell Me That I'm Dreaming
05.   Oh, Mr Friction
06.   Carry Me Back To Old Morocco
07.   It's An Attack!
08.   The Sky's Ablaze
09.   Go ... Now!
10.   Hello Operator (Short Version)
11.   Out Come The Freaks (Again)
12.   Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (12" Remix)
13.   Out Come The Freaks (12" Remix)
14.   (Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks
15.   Christmas Time In Motor City
16.   Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version)

Notes:
Re-release of the 1981 self-titled Was (Not Was) album with bonus tracks selected by Michael Esteban.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The Haxan Cloak ‎– Excavation (2013)

Style: Dark Ambient, Drone
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Tri Angle

Tracklist:
1.   Consumed
2.   Excavation (Part 1)
3.   Excavation (Part 2)
4.   Mara
5.   Miste
6.   The Mirror Reflecting (Part 1)
7.   The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2)
8.   Dieu
9.   The Drop

Credits:
Instruments – Bobby Krlic
Composed By, Recorded By, Mixed By, Producer – Bobby Krlic

Death isn't going to come easy for Bobby Krlic, the London-based producer who records as the Haxan Cloak. At least he has Excavation, a sort of multifaceted roadmap of the afterlife, to guide him. This record, his first for Tri Angle, is about the journey taken after death, making it a sequel to his eponymous 2011 debut, which was themed around someone approaching their final days on the planet. Both albums are imagined, instrumental quests, drawn out through electronic compositions with occasional strings. The first record came close to twisted Wicker Man folk at times. This one plunges into a blackened well and never gets out. There is no light relief from Krlic's malaise, no sense that we won't be here some day and there's a place at the end of it all where we might find peace. Excavation is quite the opposite. It paints death as a terrifying, complex process, full of confounding turns and illogical rhythms. 
Krlic isn't exactly working in isolation as the Haxan Cloak; he has peers in Demdike Stare's drone-shaped darkness, and he's in a similar orbit to the digital trudge-to-oblivion practiced by fellow Londoners Raime. But while Excavation continues a theme, it goes to more expansive places than anything that bears vaguely similar properties. It's bold and domineering, the kind of music that towers over you and casts a giant, intimidating shadow. There's a magical quality to it, drawn from its transportive nature. It's hard to imagine this being put together in someone's bedroom or a crappy studio, mainly because it's so far withdrawn from the everyday. Krlic has far grander thoughts in mind. He is, after all, building a whole world here, one full of mysterious scratch marks on walls, bloodstained carpets, or the noose tossed into view on the album's cover. 
Excavation is more soundtrack than regular album, pulling on familiar tropes from the horror world such as the sudden escalation of strings that lead to a stony silence in "Consumed". But Krlic doesn't follow a straight path at any point, instead setting muted rhythms in progress and disrupting them just when it feels like you've got a handle on where he's going. The depth is quite extraordinary at times, largely due to the bottomless bass Krlic deploys, helping to depict the afterlife as a relentless slog. In many religions death is seen as a destination, but here it's a struggle, another journey, a new set of circumstances with which to grapple. There's a strong sense of deterioration, of things falling apart. When "Excavation (Part 2)" plunges into the quiet it feels like Krlic's carefully constructed world faded away, only for it to segue into the queasy strings that beckon in the following "Mara" that confirm: yes, you are still here in his personal hell.

It's an album sequenced with a central narrative in mind, and one that's not without glimmers of hope at key junctures. "The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2)" and "The Drop" are key tracks, both deploying lighter textures that symbolize a form of redemption from the sooty gloom that eats at the edges of the Haxan Cloak. They come toward the close of the record, suggesting that some kind of unsteady peace has been made in this particular form of purgatory. It adds a resigned air to the album, a sense of accepting fate no matter how bad it may be. Krlic brings the strings into greater view once again during "The Drop", heightening the feelings of sadness and empathy that slowly guide us away from the inky path of all-out grief and dejection. Still, the bass hits continue to punch in that sinking feeling and the beats add a dramatic flourish, always emphasizing that this is a place of sickness, not security. 
With music we like, we often talk about the compulsion to come back to it, that need to hit the repeat button as soon as it's over. But music you need a break from can be equally powerful. Excavation has that air, of a place that actually needs some preparation before entering into it. It's not aesthetically similar to Scott Walker's later works, but it similarly highlights how certain music specifically needs the right time, place, and mood to function. Krlic even seems to know it himself, commenting in his Rising feature about the effects of his nine-hour-straight recording sessions. "Being in that zone for that long can freak you out," he said. Instead, Excavation gains power from gathering a little dust for a while, becoming a dark treat to occasionally sink into. It's not a place in which to seek refuge from life's ills, but rather one in which you can satisfy a perverse need to draw them in closer. 
Nick Neyland / Pitchfork