Friday, 12 July 2019

The Triffids ‎– Treeless Plain (1984)

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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

The Haxan Cloak ‎– …The Men Parted The Sea To Devour The Water (2012)

Style: Drone, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Latitudes ‎

1.   …The Men Parted The Sea To Devour The Water

Arranged By, Producer – Bobby Krlic
Art Direction – Stephen O'Malley
Engineer – Harvey Birrell
Illustration – Robert Beer

Bobby Krlic's debut album as The Haxan Cloak arrived last year like a boltgun to the back of the neck, accompanied by the Observatory EP's swift coup de grace, a knife swept delicately through the tendons of its victims' willing throats. Both were precociously fully-formed releases for a relative newcomer. Though when I interviewed him late last year he described Observatory as "my interpretation of a Skaters record", it was far better than simple pastiche or tribute, its rhythms reverberant as though beaten onto a rotting tree trunk and clogged by swampy synth and string drones. 
The full-length was even better. Released through Aurora Borealis - a label frequently associated with metal - its ritual bells, struck percussion and tearing cello figures (all played by Krlic himself) were instead suggestive of some archaic folk form performed by a skeleton troupe, unearthed from moorland barrows still caked in earth and the half-fossilised remnants of their own flesh and blood. All the more impressive when we discovered it was all recorded in a home-constructed studio in his parents' garden, it landed right near the top of the pile of our favourite records of last year. 
One aspect of being a relatively new artist is that your muse is likely still in a state of flux. While The Haxan Cloak immediately snared listeners, it was only Krlic's debut, and his live performances immediately showed signs that he was taking his music in slightly new directions again. The day we met for an interview in London in November last year, he was about to head off to Southern's studios to record this instalment in their Latitudes series. Essentially a session album, The Men Parted The Sea To Devour The Water records the contours of his live performances at the time. He's since signed to London label Tri Angle (initially associated with the emergence of so-called 'witch house' last year, and since having signed the likes of Clams Casino and Vessel) for his upcoming second album, which might again suggest distinct steps away from the insular spaces of his debut. 
Krlic's live shows at the time - captured for posterity on Devour The Water - were beginning to incorporate more obvious electronic elements. He admitted when we spoke to having always been a bass-head and dance music geek, although evidence of those tendencies was hidden away on his earlier releases. Those interests were starting to be expressed in his live sets, though, which took recognisable segments from his recorded output - the disembodied aquatic choir that drifts though this record's opening section, for example - and framed them with sparse, technoid beat constructions and throbbing, overtly synthetic sub-bass. They hit in hard around nine minutes through Devour The Water's single track: crisp polyrhythms a tad reminiscent of the hand-played Middle Eastern drum patterns of Skull Disco-era Shackleton, but slowed to a more comfortable pulse than the latter's wild-eyed flailings. 
Here these foundations are gradually joined by additional percussive elements, a few of which acquire melodic characteristics, threading a spidery motif through the mix that's not too distant from something you might hear on a Robert Hood or Shed record. If those sound like strange comparisons to make to Krlic's music, they are - for those only versed on his earlier material, this record will probably come across as a dramatic stylistic shift. And as with any transition away from such a distinctive debut, there's always the risk of losing something along the way. What marked The Haxan Cloak out was its timeless quality: there were no particular production tricks or techniques that betrayed it as an album of 2011. Had we been informed that it was a reissue of an obscure horror film soundtrack from the 60s or late 70s, it would have seemed entirely plausible and we'd probably have accepted the story as read. 
Admittedly, most of the sound sources for Devour The Water appear to have come from the same home-recorded library as The Haxan Cloak, lending it a similar mood and atmosphere to Krlic's debut. However, the electronic elements added here do definitely feel of a particular moment in time. If Krlic cleans all the muck and dust off his music, it's possible that a once unique sound - kindred to Coil, Leyland Kirby's work as The Stranger and Richard Skelton - might instead end up lost within a wider ecology of London-based producers making moody, sub-bassy electronica. Given the consummate skill he's shown thus far, I suspect I'll be proved wrong. Nonetheless, I do hope that he continues to consign his beats to the damp and dark corners of the garden, the better to keep them mouldering nicely. 
Rory Gibb / The Quietus

The Haxan Cloak ‎– The Haxan Cloak (2011)

Style: Dark Ambient, Drone
Format: CDVinyl
Label: Aurora Borealis

1.   Raven's Lament
2.   An Archaic Device
3.   Burning Torches Of Despair
4.   Disorder
5.   The Fall
6.   The Growing
7.   In Memoriam
8.   Parting Chant

Instruments – Bobby Krlic
Mastered By – Kris Lapke
Composed By, Recorded By, Mixed By, Producer – Bobby Krlic

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Was (Not Was) ‎– Was (Not Was) (1981)

Genre: Electronic, Rock, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  Fontana, ZE Records, Island Records

1.   Out Come The Freaks
2.   Where Did Your Heart Go?
3.   Tell Me That I'm Dreaming
4.   Oh, Mr Friction
5.   Carry Me Back To Old Morocco
6.   It's An Attack!
7.   The Sky's Ablaze
8.   Go... Now!

Alto Saxophone – David Was
Bass – Don Was, Jervonny Collier, Lamont Johnson
Drums – Franklin K. Funklyn McCullers, Jerry Jones
Guitar – Bruce Nazarian, Ricardo Rouse, Wayne Kramer
Keyboards – Don Was, Luis Resto, Mark Johnson, Raymond Johnson
Percussion – Carl "Butch" Small, Kevin Tschirhart, Larry Fratangelo
Piano – David Was, Irwin Krinsky
Saxophone – Armand Angeloni, David McMurray
Trumpet – Marcus Belgrave
Vocals – David Was, Don Was, Harry Bowens, Sweet Pea Atkinso
Backing Vocals – Carol Hall, Caroline Crawford, Kathy Kosins, Michelle Goulet, Sheila Horne
Written-By – David Was, Don Was, Douglas Pieger, Ron Banks
Producer – David Was, Don Was, Jack Tann

At the beginning of the '80s, David and Don Was weren't gathering bedfellows as strange as Ozzy Osborne and Mel Tormé -- as they would a few years later, seemingly inspired by the P-Funk All Stars as much as Battle of the Network Stars -- but the Oak Park, MI, natives were nonetheless generating collaborations as unlikely and successful as Brian Eno before them. (Partial roll call: MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Mingus associate Marcus Belgrave, and future Eminem accomplice Luis Resto, along with regular vocalists Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens.) In fact, prior to crossing over into a realm of silliness not unfamiliar to Weird Al, the Was brothers and company made some of the baddest, strangest disco-funk imaginable. Key versions of two such cuts appeared on the original version of the first Was (Not Was) album, referred to as both Was (Not Was) and Out Come the Freaks. "Tell Me That I'm Dreaming" is big-band disco, blistering funk, and a spaghetti Western score at once, with call-and-response vocals that are as nonsensical as they are deeply biting. An address from then-President Ronald Reagan is sampled during the breakdown: "Can we who man the ship of state deny that it is somewhat out of control?" The "me" decade is uniquely summed up by vocalist Harry Bowens, who steps in to proclaim, "The man likes milk, now he owns a million cows." The other monster is "Out Come the Freaks," which carries another athletic groove and ridiculous, shared vocals between a host of people. Time hasn't been as kind to the remainder of the album, but the material remains enjoyable in a "throw it on the wall, see if it sticks" kind of way, dishing out passable funk and throwing in an exceptional radioplay throwback for the hell of it. 
Andy Kellman / AllMusic

The Comet Is Coming ‎– Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery (2019)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Impulse!

1.   Because The End Is Really The Beginning
2.   Birth Of Creation
3.   Summon The Fire
4.   Blood Of The Past
5.   Super Zodiac
6.   Astral Flying
7.   Timewave Zero
8.   Unity
9.   The Universe Wakes Up

Drums, Synthesizer, Sampler – Betamax
Synthesizers, Sampler , Vocoder – Danalogue
Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – King Shabaka
Violin – Granny
Vocals – Kate Tempest
Written-By – Betamax, Danalogue, Kate Tempest, King Shabaka

Shabaka Hutchings is the reigning king of British jazz. The bandleader of the Mercury-nominated Sons of Kemet, the curator of the scene’s defining compilation We Out Here, and an icon for much of the new generation, he’s been a driving force behind the UK jazz explosion the media has been banging on about for the last year. Yet listen to his latest project – as one of third of the cosmic-minded The Comet is Coming – and you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was hardly jazz at all. 
Much has been made of how the new wave of British jazz incorporates elements of grime, dubstep and British bass music in all its forms. Yet to date, there’s never been a clearer example of that tendency than Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery. Across nine tracks and forty-five minutes, Hutchings – or King Shabaka as the album’s liner notes refer to him – alongside Keyboard player Danalogue (Dan Leavers) and drummer Betamax (Max Hallett) take us on a tour of their boundaryless world, where Sun Ra, Slimzee, and 808 State sit side by side as key influences. 
Take lead single ‘Summon the Fire’ for example, a rowdy 160bpm cut that blends pounding drumlines with appropriately spacey synths. Hutchings’ saxophone carries the melody, squawking through various effects until it reaches a triumphant hook that wouldn’t sound amiss on a Prodigy record. So boisterous is the track’s bridge that at times it threatens to morph into the kind of happy hardcore revivalism that’s dominating the UK’s clubs. If this is jazz, it’s jazz for football hooligans, and it is utterly glorious. 
That theme continues on ‘Super Zodiac’ which after a relatively sedate introduction launches into a euphoric burst of shimmering keys and propulsive drums. Blasts of Hutchings saxophone compete for space in the mix, building to an overwhelming peak that makes you wonder how on earth only three people can make this much noise. 
Like the dance music pioneers whose influence runs through the album, The Comet Is Coming know that the secret of success is all about tension and relief. While Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery is at its best when battering the listener with the combined histories of cosmic jazz and British rave, its quieter moments are just as key to the album’s strength. Opening track ‘Because The End is Really The Beginning’ is a masterclass in mood-setting. Totally overdramatic with lumbering cinematic horns and ominous drum fills, it sounds like being dropped into the futuristic wasteland in which this album makes it home. It makes a fitting tribute to the influence that the group themselves admit Blade Runner has had on them. 
Both dance music and cosmic jazz have a propensity for lengthy tracks, prioritising space for the listener to get lost in over radio-play. But most of the songs on Trust… are kept short, often wrapping things up around the five-minute mark. The exception is the Kate Tempest-featuring ‘Blood of The Past’, an eight-minute epic at the core of the record. The only track to feature vocals, ‘Blood of The Past’ takes the Prodigy influence of ‘Summon the Fire’ and warps it into an industrial, head-banging anthem with Tempest informing the listener “it is too late for dreaming” and warning us of the error of our ways. 
If the group’s dystopian tendencies get the better of them on ‘Blood of The Past’, all is forgotten by the time they reach ‘Astral Flying’, ‘Timewave Zero’, and ‘Unity’, a trio of songs that bring The Comet Is Coming back to greener, jazzier pastures. Afrobeat drums carry ‘Timewave Zero’, saxophone and keys gliding harmoniously over the top with just a hint of melancholy underpinning the whole thing, while ‘Unity’ recalls the gentle approach of London jazz peers KOKOROKO, with sublime horns and hints of the city’s hustle running through the track. 
The Comet Is Coming have been pushing jazz beyond its limits since their inception. However, on Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, the group seem to have finally broken through the atmosphere and are now soaring in uncharted territory. There’s no denying the importance of Alice Coltrane or Sun Ra as influences on the album but rather than being weighed down by those legacies, The Comet Is Coming have turned them into fuel, accelerating their sound, and with it, the sound of jazz today. Hutchings’ playing on this record is as distinctive as anything John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins put to wax and Leavers’, and Hallett’s instrumentation is unmistakably contemporary. It’s not hard to imagine fans of instrumental grime or darker jungle finding and loving this record with no knowledge of jazz at all. Yet as much as it’s bound to piss off bebop purists and avant-garde experimentalists alike, few can deny that Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery is a jazz record. To paraphrase a notable space explorer, this is jazz, Jim, but not as we know it. 
Mike Vinti / The Quietus

Virginia Astley ‎– Had I The Heavens (1996)

Style: Acoustic, Neo-Classical, Ethereal
Format: CD
Label: Rosebud Music, Happy Valley Records

01.   It's Over Now
02.   Over The Edge Of The World
03.   Nothing Is As It Seems
04.   Broken
05.   Where I Belong (A Thousand Nights)
06.   I Can't Say Goodbye
07.   Had I The Heavens
08.   Another Road
09.   How Can I Do This To You
10.   I Know A Tune We Could Sing
11.   A Long Long Year

Produced by Virginia Astley and Graham Henderson

Virginia Astley ‎– All Shall Be Well (1992)

Style: Acoustic, Ethereal
Format: CD
Label: Happy Valley Records, Rosebud Music

01.   My Smallest Friend
02.   All Shall Be Well
03.   You Take Me Away
04.   I Live For The Day
05.   Love's Eloquence
06.   Although I Know
07.   Martin
08.   Blue Sky, White Sky
09.   How I Miss You
10.   My Smallest Friend (Instrumental)

Violin– Andrew Roberts
Cello – Nicholas Roberts
Guitar – Anthony Coote
Songwriter, Oboe, Vocals – Kate St. John
Backing Vocals – Florence Astley
Strings – Andrew Roberts, Clare Fimnimore, Nicholas Roberts, Robert Salter
Arranged By – Ted Astley
Songwriter, Producer – Virginia Astley

Virginia Astley ‎– Tender (1985)

Style: Ethereal, Art Rock, Minimal, Abstract
Format: 12"
Label: Elektra

A1.   Tender
B1.   Mindless Days
B2.   Tender (Instrumental)
B3.   A Long Time Ago

Cello, Backing Vocals – Anne Stephenson
Viola – Jon Astley, Ted Astley
Violin – Jocelyn Pook
Written-By – Virginia Astley

Virginia Astley ‎– Promise Nothing (1983)

Style: Minimal, Ambient, Experimental, Ethereal
Format: Vinyl
Label: Why Fi, Sire; Columbia, Les Disques Du Crépuscule

A1.   We Will Meet Them Again
A2.   Arctic Death
A3.   Angel Crying
A4.   Sanctus
B1.   Love's A Lonely Place To Be
B2.   Soaring
B3.   Futility
B4.   A Summer Long Since Passed
B5.   It's Too Hot To Sleep

Producer – Jon Astley, Phil Chapman, Russell Webb

Monday, 8 July 2019

Né Ladeiras ‎– Essência - Os Anos Valentim De Carvalho 1982-1983 (2008)

Genre: Pop
Format: CD
Label: Edições Valentim de Carvalho

"Alhur" (1982)
01.   Húmus Verde
02.   Holoteta
03.   Essência
04.   Alhur
"Sonho Azul" (1983)
05.   Tu E Eu
06.   Os Sinos
07.   Hotel Astória
08.   A Aliança
09.   Em Coimbra Serei Tua
10.   Maritima
11.   A Chave
12.   Sonho Azul

Compilation of the EP "Alhur" (1982) and the LP "Sonho Azul" (1983).
From the reissue series "Do Tempo do Vinil"

Satoshi Ashikawa ‎– Still Way (Wave Notation 2) (1982)

Style: New Age, Contemporary, Minimal, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Crescent

1.   Prelude
2.   Landscape Of Wheels
3.   Still Park - Ensemble
4.   Still Park - Piano Solo
5    Still Sky
6.   Image Under The Tree
      Bonus Track
7.   Wrinkle

Composed By – Satoshi Ashikawa
Engineer – Michinori Yamazaki

From the liner notes written by Ashikawa himself: 
“Sound design” doesn’t just mean simply decorating with sounds. The creation of non-sound, in other words silence, as in a design, if possible, would be wonderful. There’s no question that our age — in which we are inundated with sound – is historically unprecedented. The Canadian sound environmentalist and researcher Murray Schafer warns of this state of affairs in the following: “The ear, unlike some other sense organs, is exposed and vulnerable. The eye can be closed at will; the ear is always open. The eye can be focused and pointed at will; the ear picks up all sound right back to the acoustic horizon in all directions. Its only protection is an elaborate psychological system of filtering out undesirable sounds in order to concentrate on what is desirable. The eye points outward; the ear draws inward. It would seem reasonable to suppose that as sound sources in the acoustic environment multiply – and they are certainty multiplying today —the ear will become blunted to them and will fail to exercise its individualistic right to demand that insouciant and distracting sounds should be stopped in order that it may concentrate totally on those which truly matter.” 
We should have a more conscious attitude toward the sounds – other than music —that we listen to. Presently, the levels of sound and music in the environment have clearly exceeded man’s capacity to assimilate them, and the audio ecosystem is beginning to fall apart. Background music, which is supposed to create “atmosphere,” is far too excessive. In our present condition, we find that within certain areas and spaces, aspects of visual design are well attended to, but sound design is completely ignored. It is necessary to treat sound and music with the same level of daily need as we treat architecture, interior design, food, or the air we breathe. In any case, the Wave Notation series has begun. I hope it will be used and judged for what I had in mind as “sound design,” but of course the listener is free to use it in any way. However, I would hope this music does not become a partner in crime to the flood of sounds and music which inundate us at present.
 Listen To This

The Time ‎– Ice Cream Castle (1984)

Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warner Bros. Records

1.   Ice Cream Castles
2.   My Drawers
3.   Chilli Sauce
4.  Jungle Love
5.   If The Kid Can't Make You Come
6.   The Bird

Credits: Bass, Voice – Jerry Hubbard Drums – Jellybean Johnson Guitar, Backing Vocals – Jesse Johnson Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Mark Cardenas, Paul Peterson Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Morris Day Percussion, Voice – Jerome Benton Producer – Morris Day, The Starr * Company Written-By – Jesse Johnson, Morris Day

This album is the immaculate album of The Time. True Time fans will tell you that while this was the breakthrough album for the band, it was not their best. Ice Cream Castles broke through via the film Purple Rain where a good bit of the songs found a home in the movie, but strangely not on the soundtrack.  It was a bizarre marketing tactic that just seemed off kilter. Regardless, it worked, but for some funksters that have followed the band since the early days, the album was dreadfully short on songs only offering a paltry 6 songs not even totaling 40 minutes in length. 
But the songs showcased the bands capabilities and they all were at rare form. The inevitable funkiness of The Bird and Jungle Love quickly became dance hall favorites and songs that would be forever engraved on The Time’s playlist even to this day more than 25 years later. My Drawers was another amazing song that was just as funky as the other aforementioned hits, but it never saw much radio play. 
The remaining 3 songs were pretty much solely designed to further the bands image as a jokingly egotistical, womanizing, well-dressed gang of funky talented musicians. All of which were pretty much penned by Jesse Johnson with exception to the title track which was penned by Prince and Morris Day. 
All in all, Ice Cream Castles is a funk classic that helped the world stand up and recognize that The Time was truly a force to be reckoned with. It is a must have for any funk fanatic that is filling in their collection of missing classics. While it’s short on time and short on songs, it’s undeniably a classic funk album and an imperative addition to all funk collections. But because it fell so short on expectations compared to other Time albums, we only give it 4.5 out of 5 afros. If it had a couple more songs to further showcase the bands talent, it would have hit the 5 out of 5, but Paisley Park did the band a huge disservice by cutting them short. Shame on you!  Compared to the other Time albums, this one was a good funk fix, but we felt cheated.  Leave them wanting more just doesn’t cut it, but when you can pick this album up for under $5, you better own it or be ridiculed.  

The Time ‎– What Time Is It? (1982)

Genre: Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warner Bros. Records

1.   Wild And Loose
2.   777-9311
3.   Onedayi'mgonnabesomebody
4.   The Walk
5.   Gigolos Get Lonely Too
6.   I Don't Wanna Leave You

Bass, Vocals – Terry Lewis
Drums, Percussion – Jellybean Johnson
Guitar, Vocals – Jesse Johnson
Keyboards, Vocals – Jimmy Jam, Monte Moir
Lead Vocals – Morris Day
Producer – Morris Day, The Starr * Company

The Time's second album, What Time Is It?, is similar in many ways to The Time (1981), except better all-around, boasting three extended synth-funk jams ("Wild and Loose," "777-9311," "The Walk") that surpass those on the preceding album, plus a humorously wonderful ballad, "Gigolos Get Lonely Too," that tops any of those on the band's eponymous debut. In terms of similarities, both What Time Is It? and The Time are largely the work of Prince with the exception of the vocals, which are sung instead by Morris Day. Jesse Johnson (guitar), Terry Lewis (bass), Jimmy Jam (keyboards), Monte Moir (keyboards), and Jellybean Johnson (drums) are again listed as bandmembers, and though they certainly performed this material live in-concert as Prince's opening act, it's questionable how much musical input they had in the recording studio. Prince reportedly performed every note of music heard here except the vocals, though there's no evidence of that in the liner notes (at least not on the initial edition), as the only sign of his involvement is a production credit for Jamie Starr, one of his pseudonyms. Another similarity between What Time Is It? and The Time is the slim song offerings -- only six songs on each album, and though half the songs approach ten minutes in length, there are slight offerings on each album, "Onedayi'mgonnabesomebody" thankfully the only inconsequential song here. Any way you measure it, What Time Is It? is undoubtedly the better of the two albums, and the Time's most fully developed album overall, if not their flat-out best. Sure, there are only six songs, but five of them are fantastic, especially "777-9311," and the album itself sounds much more fully produced than its predecessor. Any fan of Prince's early-'80s work, particularly 1999 (1983), will find much to enjoy on What Time Is It? 
 Jason Birchmeier / AllMusic

The Time ‎– The Time (1981)

Genre: Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warner Bros. Records

1.   Get It Up
2.   Girl
3.   After Hi School
4.   Cool
5.   Oh, Baby
6.   The Stick

Bass, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Terry Lewis
Drums, Percussion – Jellybean Johnson
Guitar, Vocals – Jesse Johnson
Keyboards, Vocals – Jimmy Jam, Monte Moir
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Morris Day
Producer – Jamie Starr, Morris Day

Essentially a side project for Prince in the wake of his tour with Rick James in support of Dirty Mind (1980), the Time made their self-titled album debut in 1981, a few months before the release of Controversy. The band's lineup is listed as Morris Day (vocals), Jesse Johnson (guitar), Terry Lewis (bass), Jimmy Jam (keyboards), Monte Moir (keyboards), and Jellybean Johnson (drums) -- all from the same Minneapolis music scene as Prince -- though reportedly all the music heard on The Time was performed by Prince with the exception of the vocals and a couple synthesizer solos. Moreover, Prince wrote all but one of the songs. None of this information is evident in the liner notes, however (at least not on the initial edition), as the only sign of Prince's involvement is a production credit for Jamie Starr, one of his pseudonyms. The origin of the Time -- and subsequently Vanity 6 -- came about because Prince was a prolific artist and his record label, Warner Brothers, recognizing this, gave him its contractual blessing to create side projects. This worked out well for Prince since he was able to release music in addition to his proper solo recordings, and he would have himself an opening band for his tours. The Time may have not written or performed the music on their self-titled debut, but they were fully capable of performing it live on-stage as Prince's opening act. Far from a bunch of stage actors, the Time was actually a talented bunch: Morris Day would prove himself a charismatic frontman and had previously co-written "Partyup" for Dirty Mind; Jesse Johnson would develop as a virtuosic guitarist; and most accomplished of all, Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam would become a first-rate production duo, helming Janet Jackson's Control in 1986, among many other projects. As for the album itself, The Time is short on material, featuring only six songs, a couple of them quite slight, but there are a few truly fantastic songs here on a par with Prince's best work of the era, namely "Get It Up," "Cool," and "The Stick," all extended synth-funk jams in the eight-to-ten-minute range. Successive albums by the Time would be more typical of the band itself, yet The Time is no less noteworthy for the lack of the band's involvement; in fact, this debut release is especially noteworthy for Prince fans enamored of his Dirty Mind-era output, for the music here feels like a session of outtakes as sung by Morris Day. 
Jason Birchmeier  / AllMusic

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Kamaal Williams ‎– The Return (2018)

Style: Jazz-Funk, Contemporary Jazz, Broken Beat
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Black Focus Records

01.   Salaam
02.   Broken Theme
03.   The Return
04.   High Roller
05.   Situations (Live In Milan)
06.   Catch The Loop
07.   Rhythm Commission
08.   Medina
09.   LDN Shuffle
10.   Aisha

Bass – Pete Martin
Drums – Joshua McKenzie
Electric Piano , Synth – Kamaal Williams
Lacquer Cut By – Guy

Cross-pollination of jazz and hip hop has spread fast during the 2010s. In-the-moment creativity and giving-the-drummer-some are powerful synergies. In the US, key players include Kamasi Washington, Thundercat and Christian Scott. In Britain, they include the extended family of musicians associated with reed player Shabaka Hutchings and the Brownswood Recordings label. Some of the British players are featured on the previously reviewed We Out Here (Brownswood, 2018), which is a great snapshot of the scene as it exists in London in spring 2018.  
Among Brownswood's alumni are keyboard player Kamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu) and drummer Yussef Dayes. As Yussef Kamaal, the pair debuted with Black Focus (Brownswood, 2016), a thrilling blend of hip hop-derived British musics and the jazz-funk legacies of Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Lonnie Liston Smith and Roy Ayers. In 2017, the duo were booked to perform at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, but at the last moment US homeland security refused to give visas to members of the party. Yussef Kamaal broke up shortly after this.  
Happily, Williams and Dayes both remain active, albeit separately. Dayes is prominently featured on Toshio Matsuura Group's previously reviewed Loveplaydance: 8 Scenes From The Floor (Brownswood, 2018) and on Tenderlonious's soon-to-be-released The Shakedown (22a). Williams has resurfaced with the appropriately titled The Return on his fledgling Black Focus label, made with the ferocious rhythm section of drummer MckNasty and bassist Pete Martin. The fourth member of the group is engineer Richard Samuels, whose studio expertise is crucial to the music. Brownswood regular, guitarist Mansur Brown, guests on "LDN Shuffle," tearing off a solo which gives more than a nod to John McLaughlin's work with Mahavishnu Orchestra.  
The Return takes up where Black Focus left off, harnessing classic jazz-funk and fusion with hip hop and its British offspring grime, broken beat and drum & bass. Beats are key, and so are great melodies and trippy ambiances. It is jazz, Jim, but only as we have recently got to know it, and it all hangs together beautifully.
Chris May / All About Jazz

Friday, 5 July 2019

The Jesus And Mary Chain ‎– Darklands (1987)

Style: Alternative Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warner Bros. Records, Blanco Y Negro, Rhyno Records

01.   Darklands
02.   Deep One Perfect Morning
03.   Happy When It Rains
04.   Down On Me
05.   Nine Million Rainy Days
06.   April Skies
07.   Fall
08.   Cherry Came Too
09.   On The Wall
10.   About You

Credits: Vocals – Jim Reid, William Reid Written-By – Jim Reid, William Reid Producer – Bill Price, John Loder, William Reid

The Jesus and Mary Chain (henceforth “JAMC”) was the musical project of Jim and William Reid, who were (a) Scottish, (b) brothers, and (c) the foremost technological and scientific innovators of the modern rock era. Before they came along, many people still assumed that in order to make aggressive, energetic noises, the members of rock bands had to actually move around, do guitar windmills, and look engaged. The JAMC did not like this situation, because those poses tended to be either uncool or boring, and often made one look like a complete twat. 
But after a brief scientific study of their equipment, it came to the JAMC’s attention that electric guitars, when paired with high amplifier volume and harmonic distortion, could create feedback, thereby producing aggressive noises mostly on their own, and freeing their actual players to stand around looking half dead, depressed, and generally too contemptuous and disgusted to really bother playing-- all of which seemed, in 1985 and in the particular case of the JAMC, totally super-awesome. 
Obviously the drummer for such a group couldn’t sit behind a big kit looking like he knew what he was doing, so the JAMC stood Bobby Gillespie (yes, that one) up behind only two drums-- a floor tom and a snare-- and had him bash away like he was pissed off at them but either too bored or too drunk to finish them off. A similar approach was taken to bass guitar and vocals. 
If the band had applied these tactics to knotty, difficult music, you would never have heard of them, and Dominique Leone would be reviewing these reissues. Luckily-- intuitively-- the JAMC wrote pop songs, basic three-chord rock’n’roll and all-hook melodies, vaguely in the style of early Beach Boys, girl groups, or the laid-back end of the Rolling Stones. played by lazy, spiteful, nearly hopeless people who didn’t care one way or the other and therefore covered the whole thing in screeching. (See also: the Velvet Underground.) 
Sometimes people tell you that a 20-year-old album “sounded like nothing else,” but when you listen with today’s ears, it seems rather quaint and unsurprising. Psychocandy is not one of those albums. Its noise isn’t the thick, tactile noise of the new millennium: It’s thin, trebly, and drowned in indistinct reverb, such that this record still sounds like it’s being played in the apartment across the street at staggering volume while someone intermittently runs glass through a table saw. The music stumbles its way from stoned, lazy beauty (“Just Like Honey”) to speed-freak noise (“Never Understand”) to almost-bouncy pop (“Taste of Cindy”). Jim Reid chants his melodies in the selfish, mostly monosyllabic vocabulary of rock’n’roll (“I’m in love with myself,” “I don’t want you to need me,” “oh yeah,”). And just about every song comes out ideal: You’d think they’d sound like jerks, or toughs, and yet it all comes off so vulnerable, so pretty. 
The UK loved it, and it’s worth asking why. One reason, I think, is that people in the stylish 80s were thrilled to see their own personal resurrection of the same rock’n’roll “cool” myth that runs through fellow heroin enthusiasts like the Stones, the Pistols, and Nirvana-- which is to say, a band that doesn’t seem to give a fuck about much, including pleasing its own audience, and thus lets that audience live out its own (sensibly unfulfilled) fantasies of alienated non-fuck-giving and antisocial moping. Psychocandy remains a perfect record for states of feeling so bratty, depressed, or disgusted that you actually start to enjoy it. Also, like with most heroin rock’n’roll bands, there’s an earnest, romantic belief in something beautiful and unattainable in the midst of it, which might be drug-related for them but doesn’t have to be for you. The many fun and pretty songs here still seem tired and hard-won, like the band’s grasping at beauty rather than just claiming it exists. 
The JAMC also sent a couple massively influential messages to everyone else. One was that-- as mentioned-- you could make big noises without being or acting big. The other was a reminder that the ethos of a band could be wrapped up not in the notes or the songs they played, but in the actual sound of their records; that stuff could be content, not style. These lessons, put together, account for a good 75% of the shoegazer scene that followed. 
With all of that accomplished, the JAMC’s next four albums were spent figuring out what in the world to do next. Decisions were made as follows:* 
Darklands (1987): With Gillespie gone and replaced by an unobtrusive drum machine, the band turns down the noise attitude and works on developing the back-to-basics pop songs that were always underneath. The singles (“Happy When it Rains”) are a joy, big hooks laced with just the right amount of vintage leather-and-shades cool. 
Automatic (1989): Conventional wisdom wrongly calls this the dud. With the band reduced to the brothers only, things go artificial: The drum machine is foregrounded, the bass is played on keyboards, the feedback’s on vacation. In that space, the Reids take their biggest shot at doing full-on pop, something that-- on a global alternative classic like the Pixies-covered “Head On”-- feels like a career peak. The rockier album cuts get pretty turgid, and both Reids start to feel like parodies of themselves, but at points they fall into a synthetic rock grind that’s almost industrial-- fascinating, in a time-capsule kind of way. 
Honey’s Dead (1992): Conventional wisdom wrongly calls this the return to form, mostly because they got a drummer and wrote some lively tunes. The problem is that the well-recorded feedback and effortful Jagger yowling here sound like two guys straining to be cool, the exact thing that Psychocandy evaded. It’s also their first fully contemporary grunge-era record, so if you wanted to hear a rock band try, you could just buy something current. 
Stoned and Dethroned (1994): Back to the beauty thing-- the band breaks out a few acoustic guitars and settles gracefully into a bunch of drawling Stones-type numbers. How convenient that William was dating Hope Sandoval, of popular acoustic drawlers Mazzy Star: Her duet with Jim on "Sometimes Always" really is a standout. 
There is only one warning that must go with them: Do not try this at home. Since the turn of the millennium, a staggering number of rock bands have put a staggering amount of effort into seeming like they don’t care. Some have studied the poses and sounds like engineers; others have reduced themselves to the point of intolerable blandness, all because actually trying something might leave them open to embarrassment, open to criticism. Don’t try this at home: These days we could use more of the opposite end of the 80s, the unembarrassed striving and the unselfconscious quirk. 
Nitsuh Abebe / Pitchfork