Saturday, May 29, 2010

Solo Guitar - (2006)

Alan Sparhawk's first solo album is a significant departure from his primary band Low's slow-core sound. Recorded as some sort of live experiment, there is no real song structure, or indeed anything but the mercury waves and frenetic cries of a solo electric guitar. What results is an album that invokes a wide range of moods while also managing to be sonically consistent, allowing each piece to add to the unified whole. Largely the songs seem to be musical interpretations of the conditions surrounding a freighter's voyage; take the trio of "How a Freighter Comes Into the Harbor," "How The Weather Hits the Freighter," "...In the Harbor," for example. This is not fancy guitar work by any means, but rather an exploration into how a guitar's sound can be manipulated and mutated to create various atmospheres through unconventional methods, and very likely with the use of an arsenal of effect pedals. Sparhawk certainly achieves several unique, transcendent moments, especially in "Sagrado Corazon De Jesu (Second Attempt)" and "How It Ends." Occasionally, though, the lengthy washes of sound devolve into meandering repetition, even in a few spots to unlistenable noise, and this is when the project loses a certain amount of appeal. That said, it is still a fascinating statement through-and-through, devoid of conventional structure, but often fully captivating and emotionally poignant. (

Dot.Com - (2000)

In 2000, Ralph Records America collected all of the MP3's they had released on the Buy Or Die website on a CD entitled Each MP3 is a never-before-released track from The Residents' history, dating from 1969 to 2000. Walter Westinghouse, track 9, was a bonus: it had never come out in MP3 format, but only appeared on this CD. The compilation was limited to 1,200 numbered copies.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Autumn Kaleidoscope Got Changed - (2010)

Originally a private press CDR from 2001, released under the name Satanstompingcaterpillars, The Autumn Kaleidoscope Got Changed was never properly released, and mainly just given out to friends. Some material made it onto the first real Black Moth Super Rainbow album, Falling Through A Field in 2003, but Autumn's sound is more haunted and acoustic. Also included on a specially etched record is the EP, Sing To Us, an even less produced CDR made up of songs left off of the album. This 2xLP version is limited to 1,000 copies, the first 500 of those copies are hand numbered and includes a tri-blend American Apparel t-shirt with "Tree Girl" logo.

Rise Up ! - (2003)

Rise Up! features hard-pounding, heavily distorted, double-drummer-driven blues-punk that's definitely not intended for purists, as the Black-Eyed Snakes' noisy 46-second cover version of Swans' "Red Sheet" and their scraping, screaming sonic meltdown in the middle of the almost nine-minute "No Good Daddy" amply demonstrate. Thankfully, there's less self-conscious irony and posturing here than on the group's debut album, although the band has a running joke of giving itself and everyone else connected with this album down-home nicknames such as "Chicken-Bone" and "Big House." Alan Sparhawk's heavily filtered vocals sound appropriately vigorous and unhinged; they give the band a contemporary feel while fitting well with their relatively abrasive sound. However, his vocals also sound emotionally distant and don't convey much nuance (plus sometimes it's hard to understand what he's saying). Also, there isn't a surfeit of catchy tunes on this album, although that's not really what the band is about anyway. They tend to go for the sledgehammer approach, which is jus' fine if you're in the mood for it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill - (2008)

Liz Harris' first two Grouper albums, Way Their Crept and Wide, consisted mostly of layers of her pristine vocals blanketed in drones, reverb, and distortion until they blurred into a blissful, and sometimes eerie, haze. That haze lifts ever so slightly on Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, letting more melody, more structured songs, and even a few phrases emerge from the ether. Fragile acoustic and electric guitars and the occasional keyboard also bring this album more down to earth than Grouper's earlier work, but the music never feels stifled or limited — if anything, the added structure lets these songs take flight and reach peaks of beauty that Wide and Way Their Crept only glimpsed. Harris' voice is especially spine-tingling on "Stuck," where her gorgeous harmonies only need gentle strumming to support their ebb and flow. Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill's soft, intricate layers have their roots in late-'80s/early-'90s dream pop (and the work of the Cocteau Twins and early His Name Is Alive in particular — Home Is in Your Head could be this album's great-great-grandmother), but Grouper's take is looser and more organic; there's a reason many of the song titles feature nature imagery ("Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping," "Traveling Through a Sea"). Dragging a Dead Deer also shows more musical range than Harris' previous work: "Disengaged," which introduces the album with blasts of static that suggest wind and waves, and the wistful "Invisible" fall closest to Wide and Way Their Crept's drifting approach, while "Fishing Bird (Empty Jutted in the Evening Breeze)" and "A Cover Over" boast distinct verses and choruses as well as the rest of the album's otherworldly atmosphere. This is also Grouper's most emotionally wide-ranging work, covering the electric lullaby "When We Fall" to the slightly ominous shimmer of the title track. Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill offers moments that are just as memorable as the entire album, and all of them are subtly, but stunningly, beautiful. (

*** 7' SINGLE ***
Game Program - (1998)

1. In Miniature (Remix)
2. No Hands


In Tune And On Time - (2004)

DJ Shadow's first official live album, recorded at London's Brixton Academy during the 2002 Private Press tour. A huge leap from the "two turntable" standard, Shadow's performance incorporated state of the art visuals and complex mixing, raising the bar permanently for what a DJ show could and should be. The album features tracks and samples from his past albums as well as tracks and samples from his work with UNKLE and Quannum. It was released in as a CD/DVD set; the DVD contains additional songs and material.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pro-Twelve Thinker - (2005)

Born out of a high-school friendship in March 2001 in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, FL, quirky electronica duo Yip-Yip (Brian Esser and Jason Temple) didn't set out to perform live shows. Instead, they concentrated on making music at home, using a variety of keyboards, samplers, and other instruments to create their unique NES-meets-noise sound that eschewed melody for pattern and idiosyncrasy. In 2001 they self-released their debut full-length, 1, with Skills appearing the following year. In 2003 the EP High Heel to Mammal was released, and it was also around this time that Yip-Yip decided to start playing live shows. They started to appear locally, booking their first real tour in 2004 and continuing onward from there, helping to make a name for themselves by playing videos and wearing matching hooded jumpsuits (either white or black-and-white checkers) on-stage. In 2004 they pressed a limited number of their third full-length, Pro-Twelve Thinker, which was then picked up by California-based Strictly Amateur Films and reissued the following year. Though on a label, the band continued to do its own artwork and recording, releasing a couple of singles and an album, In the Reptile House, before showing up at New York's CMJ Festival in the fall of 2006 and 2007 and issuing yet another full-length, Two Kings of the Same Kingdom, in the winter of 2008.

The Sad Machinery Of Spring - (2007)

For its fifth album, the former Tin Hat Trio is minus one founding member, accordionist Rob Burger, but takes in three new musicians: harpist Zeena Parkins (who has recorded with the group before), clarinetist Ben Goldberg (who has recorded several jazz and klezmer albums under his own name) and multi-instrumentalist Ara Anderson, who contributes a number of horns and keyboards to the mix and has played before with Tom Waits and others. Despite the personnel shift — founders Mark Orton (guitar, piano and other instruments) and Carla Kihlstedt (violins, voice and more) remain — and the wider canvas, the basic M.O. of Tin Hat remains relatively intact. The group has been described in the past as "acoustic chamber music," and while that is as apt a tag as any, it's also rather limiting. Tin Hat draws from a number of not-always-compatible genres — among them various branches of classical music, world elements and the freeness of jazz — but then blurs the lines until none are particularly recognizable as such. But for The Sad Machinery of Spring the reconfigured, largely instrumental group specifically looked for inspiration in the works of surrealist Polish writer Bruno Schulz, who was killed by the Nazis in 1942. The essence of klezmer and related Eastern European sounds hover over Sad Machinery's compositions and improvisations, but Tin Hat is too unorthodox and resourceful to be so obvious. There is a balance of many moods and sonic variations among these tracks, ranging from playful and carefree to bucolic to jarringly eccentric. Whether that reflects Schulz's own creations most listeners will probably never know, but no matter: Sad Machinery is hardly a passive listening experience, but it's never boring.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Coltrane's Sound - (1960)

This is one of the most highly underrated entries in Coltrane's voluminous catalog. Although the same overwhelming attention bestowed upon My Favorite Things was not given to Coltrane's Sound upon its initial release, both were actually recorded during the same three-day period in the fall of 1960. So prolific were those recording dates, they informed no less than five different Coltrane albums on Atlantic. The title could not have been more accurate, as each of the six pieces — eight if you count the CD bonus tracks — bear the unmistakable and indelible stamp of Coltrane's early-'60s style. "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" and "Body and Soul" — the only tracks not penned by Coltrane — are given unique and distinctive voices. Animating the arrangements on these sessions were Coltrane (soprano/tenor sax), Steve Davis (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), and McCoy Tyner (piano). It's perhaps Tyner's recollection of the quartet as "four pistons in an engine" that most aptly explains the singular drive heard during Coltrane's extended runs on "Liberia." Tyner flawlessly complements Coltrane with full resonating chords that cling to his volley of sound. The rhythmic gymnastics of percussionist Jones is also showcased as his double-jointed bop swing and military band precision are distinctly displayed on the blues "Equinox." The opening six bars give Jones a chance to make a contrasting statement — which he takes full advantage of. The two CD bonus tracks — "26-2" as well as an alternate take of "Body and Soul" — are also available on the Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings box set. Regardless of the format, these recordings remain among Trane's finest. (

Is Night People - (2008)

Originally released as the band's first cassette, then re-released on CD by the Swedish Release the Bats label, Is Night People shows that from the start, Raccoo-Oo-Oon looked upon everything from gothy blues to blissout feedback to Japanoise and thought, "Let's use it." Which they do on this short but enjoyable debut; often extremely loudly. Starting with the short, chaotic "Brain Loot," what Raccoo-Oo-Oon did at this stage most of all was work on a simple but effective formula: make things simultaneously as overloaded and as accessibly enveloping as possible. It's not quite the kind of combination that, say, Bardo Pond have perfected; instead of an agog majesty Raccoo-Oo-Oon here aim at a gentle war in the head. Even when the murky voices float in towards the end of "Fluff Up Your Fur," the effect is one of serene uneasiness rather than just plain creep-out. While the full white noise approach at the end of "Call out Your Friends" works, it's the combinations on tracks like "Stamped from the Stump," where there's just enough of a processional feeling that gets complemented by the swirling collage of vocal overdubs later on. "Uh-Oh," the album's second cut, is also the best, started with an unexpected, beautiful fusion of crisp, martial beats and a simple but lovely surge of building shoegaze-via-Mogwai guitar. As it progresses, everything in the arrangement gets a bit busier — buried singing and shouts, more percussion hits, what sounds like a cascading screech of a dying theremin — even as the base of the song remains a solid anchor. It feels like a triumphant march into the future, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. (

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Panda Bear - (1999)

Noah Lennox adopted the name Panda Bear in the late '90s, when he drew a picture of a panda on one of his first bedroom studio recordings. He grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college at the University of Boston, and eventually found his way to New York City, where he met his future Animal Collective bandmates Avey Tare, Geologist, and Deakin. In addition to his work with Animal Collective, Jane, and Together, Lennox has released several solo albums. Young Prayer, an album largely influenced by the death of his father, was released in 2004, and Person Pitch, Lennox's second album on the Paw Tracks label, followed three years later.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Machine Gun - (1968)

This historic free jazz album is a heavy-impact sonic assault so aggressive it still knocks listeners back on their heels decades later. Recorded in May 1968, Machine Gun captures some top European improvisers at the beginning of their influential careers, and is regarded by some as the first European — not just German or British — jazz recording. Originally self-released by Peter Brötzmann, the album eventually came out on the FMP label, and set a new high-water mark for free jazz and "energy music" that few have approached since. Brötzmann is joined on sax by British stalwart Evan Parker and Dutch reedsman Willem Breuker (before Breuker moved away from free music, his lungs were as powerful as Brötzmann's). The rest of the group consists of drummers Han Bennink (Dutch) and Sven-Åke Johansson (Swedish), Belgian pianist Fred van Hove, and bassists Peter Kowald (German) and Buschi Niebergall (Swiss). Brötzmann leads this octet in a notoriously concentrated dose of the relentless hard blowing so often characteristic of his music. While Brötzmann has played this powerfully on albums since, never again is it with a group of this size playing just as hard with him. The players declare and exercise their right to bellow and wail all they want; they both send up the stereotype of free playing as simply screaming, and unapologetically revel in it. The sound of Machine Gun is just as aggressive and battering as its namesake, blowing apart all that's timid, immovable, or proper with an unrepentant and furious finality. The years have not managed to temper this fiery furnace blast from hell; it's just as relentless and shocking an assault now as it was then. Even stout-hearted listeners will nearly be sent into hiding — much like standing outside during a violent storm, withstanding this kind of fierce energy is a primal thrill. (

Spirits Rejoice - (1966)

Recorded live at New York's Judson Hall in 1965, Spirits Rejoice is one of Albert Ayler's wildest, noisiest albums, partly because it's one of the very few that teams him with another saxophonist, altoist Charles Tyler. It's also one of the earliest recordings to feature Ayler's brother Don playing an amateurish but expressive trumpet, and the ensemble is further expanded by using bassists Henry Grimes and Gary Peacock together on three of the five tracks; plus, the rubato "Angels" finds Ayler interacting with Call Cobbs' harpsichord in an odd, twinkling evocation of the spiritual spheres. Aside from that more spacious reflection, most of the album is given over to furious ensemble interaction and hard-blowing solos that always place in-the-moment passion above standard jazz technique. Freed up by the presence of the trumpet and alto, Ayler's playing concentrates on the rich lower register of his horn and all the honks and growls that go with it; his already thick, huge tone has rarely seemed more monolithic. Spirits Rejoice also provides an opportunity to hear the sources of Ayler's simple, traditional melodies becoming more eclectic. The nearly 12-minute title track has a pronounced New Orleans marching band feel, switching between two themes reminiscent of a hymn and a hunting bugle call, and the brief "Holy Family" is downright R&B-flavored. "Prophet" touches on a different side of Ayler's old-time march influence, with machine-gun cracks and militaristic cadences from drummer Sunny Murray driving the raggedly energetic ensemble themes. For all its apparent chaos, Spirits Rejoice is often surprisingly pre-arranged — witness all the careening harmony passages that accompany the theme statements, and the seamless transitions of the title track. Spirits Rejoice is proof that there was an underlying logic even to Ayler's most extreme moments, and that's why it remains a tremendously inspiring recording.

Big Science - (1982)

There was a backlash against Laurie Anderson in "serious" musical and artistic circles after the completely unexpected mainstream commercial success of her debut album, Big Science. (The eight-plus-minute single "O Superman" was a chart hit in England, unbelievably enough.) A fair listen to Big Science leaves the impression that jealousy must have been at the root of the reception because Big Science is in no way a commercial sellout. A thoughtful and often hilariously funny collection of songs from Anderson's work in progress, United States I-IV, Big Science works both as a preview of the larger work and on its own merits. Opening with the hypnotic art rock of "From the Air," in which an airline pilot casually mentions that he's a caveman to a cyclical melody played in unison by a three-part reeds section, and the strangely beautiful title track, which must feature the most deadpan yodeling ever, the album dispenses witty one-liners, perceptive social commentary (the subtext of the album concerns Anderson's own suburban upbringing, which she views with more of a bemused fondness than the tiresome irony that many brought to the subject), and a surprisingly impressive sense of melody for someone who was until recently a strictly visual artist. For example, the marimba and handclap-led closer, "It Tango," is downright pretty in the way the minimalistic tune interacts with Anderson's voice, which is softer and more intimate (almost sexy, in a downtown-cool sort of way) than on the rest of the album. Not everything works — "Walking and Falling" is negligible, and the way Rufus Harley's bagpipes intentionally clash with Anderson's harsh, nasal singing and mannered phrasing in "Sweaters" will annoy those listeners who can't take either Yoko Ono or Meredith Monk — but Big Science is a landmark release in the New York art scene of the '80s, and quite possibly the best art rock album of the decade. (

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Million Year Picnic - (1984)

Imagine a blend of Gary Numan, early Pink Floyd, Jean-Michel Jarre and The Stranglers and you have a sense of the music. Add the mystery of a zealously guarded identity (he's believed to be Canadian) and someone who appears onstage with his face swathed completely in surgical bandages, and you have a clearer picture of one of music's true eccentrics. Who else released an instrumental LP that bills itself as playable at any speed? Nash first surfaced in 1976 as an electric violinist and mandolin player with vocalist, bassist and synthesizer player Cameron Hawkins as FM. Rejecting the conformity of AM radio, they experimented electronically in the manner of Brian Eno. Similar to Andy Warhol and his Exploding Plastic Inevitable live presentation that helped launch Velvet Underground, FM's hometown concert debut in Toronto blew away the crowd with an assault of visual images coupled with sound. It set the pattern for Nash's solo career, which began in 1978 in an audio-visual collaboration with painter Robert Vanderhorst, who would reappear later in Nash's career. Following his quirky vision, Nash wrote the music and played all the instruments, even handling the engineering and production at times during his first several albums. An exception was Daniel Lanois producing one tune from 1982 Nash album And You Thought You Were Normal. Nash has regrouped with different incarnations of FM during the years. While his unconventional ideas limit collaboration possibilities, he has recorded and toured with Numan. Nash scores soundtracks periodically, notably releasing a CD of his score for the 1991 Canadian cult favorite Highway 61, which featured singer Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys in a small role. Nash's first two albums were re-packaged on CD in 1997, and he continued to work on new material. (

Monday, May 10, 2010

Talking Light Live In Holland - (2010)

What is Talking Light about? Some say it is about growing old and dying. Some say it is because The Residents are getting old and recognize their mortality. The Residents are no more getting old than we all are. Aging and death is one of the true universal experiences. The line that separates the living and the dying is not age, it is found in the power we exert in our daly life. The Residents while toying with the ideas of age and death prove by their presence on the stage that they are not close to death at all. In fact there is a sense of "fuck you" about the performance that defies the dramatic and tragic idea of death. In the last week of April, The Residents began the European leg of The Talking Light Tour. The first performance took place in Nijmegen, Holland on April 26th.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Uptown Bar, Minneapolis - (1/10/1992)

Bio - The flagship act of frontman Mark Robinson's own TeenBeat label, Unrest was a towering pillar of the American indie rock community throughout the early '90s — from the tongue-in-cheek garage noise of their earliest efforts to the shimmering, manic pop thrills of their later, most enduring work, the band was a paragon of DIY virtue, perfecting a genre-hopping eclecticism and knowing, ironic lyrical outlook that virtually defined the sound and feel of college rock in the pre-grunge era. Robinson, bassist Tim Moran, and drummer Phil Krauth formed Unrest while students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA; borrowing their name from a Henry Cow record, the fledgling trio soon made its debut on the first TeenBeat release, the 1985 cassette compilation Extremism in the Defense of Liberty Is No Vice. Comprised of 25 tracks bootlegged from a show at the Washington, D.C. venue the 9:30 Club, the tape was released in an edition of about 60 copies, and sold primarily to Robinson's classmates; among the featured acts were Jungle George & the Plague, led by another Wakefield student, Andrew Beaujon, who later led the much-acclaimed Eggs and briefly tenured with Unrest as well. TeenBeat itself would over time emerge as one of the most respected American independent labels of its period, evolving from the Xeroxed covers of early cassette releases to a prolific flow of beautifully designed releases inspired by Robinson's abiding affection for the lavish packaging of the British imprints Factory and 4AD; the company's ever-changing roster reflected its founder's diverse tastes, issuing recordings from artists spanning from Versus to Gastr del Sol to Blast Off Country Style. TeenBeat's sophomore release, the Unrest! cassette, followed in the spring of 1985; recorded live to two-track in Moran's living room, the tape was soon trailed by another cassette, Lisa Carol Freemont, serving early notice of the prodigious output which defined the band's career — at the same time, Robinson and Krauth even collaborated in another band, Clarence. All of Unrest's releases catalogued Robinson's ever-shifting lyrical and musical obsessions, which (especially at the outset of the group's existence) often resulted in jarring track-to-track juxtapositions embracing everything from punk to funk. The band's more radical experiments make their unofficially self-titled 1987 full-length debut easier to admire than actually enjoy: recorded with bassist Chris Thomson filling in for Moran, the LP was pressed in an edition of 1,050, each with a cover hand-decorated by friends — since every cover was different, each copy had its own title. (An expanded edition appeared on Matador in 1993 under the title Fuck Pussy Galore and All Her Friends.) Bassist Dave Park signed on for Unrest's second album, the 1988 Caroline Records release Malcolm X Park — although the disc as a whole lacks focus, the lovely pop entries "Can't Sit Still" and "Christina" hint at the brilliance of later efforts. Silent in 1989 but for the "Catchpellet" single, the trio resurfaced a year later with their third LP, Kustom Karnal Blackxploitation, highlighted by their interpretation of the Heathers soundtrack's satiric protest anthem "Teenage Suicide." With the 1991 single "Yes, She Is My Skinhead Girl," Unrest achieved indie rock sainthood — a joint release with the K Records label, its skittering, oddly propulsive pop approach signaled the band's creative breakthrough, also earning strong critical notices. However, it was the arrival of bassist Bridget Cross that truly fortified the Unrest sound — a onetime member of Velocity Girl, her throbbing, insistent rhythms closely evoked the pioneering bass lines of New Order's Peter Hook, complementing Robinson's own Factory Records fixation and offering the perfect counterpoint to the frenzied strumming of his guitar work. Appropriately enough, Cross made her debut on the 1991 Sub Pop Singles Club release A Factory Record, a four-song collection of obscure covers from the Factory catalog including a brilliant reading of Miaow's "When It All Comes Down." The 1992 album Imperial f.f.r.r. remains Unrest's defining moment, a sprawling yet laser-focused pop masterpiece boasting the single "Cherry Cream On." The follow-up, 1993's Perfect Teeth, arrived as a joint release with the 4AD label — featuring onetime Miaow frontwoman Cath Carroll on the cover (a longstanding Robinson heroine, she'd later issue several solo LPs on TeenBeat) and jokingly crediting Duran Duran's Simon LeBon with production duties, the record's highlight, "Make Out Club," even earned airtime on MTV. The EP Animal Park appeared in early 1994, but at the peak of their success, Unrest then disbanded — while Krauth mounted a solo career, Robinson and Cross reunited in the short-lived Air Miami. Robinson then went on to issue a series of solo records, variously credited to projects including Olympic Death Squad and Flin Flon.

Dialogue - (1999)

Some people might think it's easy to explain Fourtet: "It's electronica." It might be easiest to wince at these people and concede, "Yes, well sort of." Fourtet, the one-man DJ project of Fridge's Kieran Hebden, doesn't fit so easily into any one category. True, there are beats, samples, and other aspects of turntablism to his music, but there are also live instruments and very real sounding drum tracks — "organic electronic" might be one way to describe it. Dialogue is Fourtet's first proper album (a slew of remixes and 12-inches have come before and after). Sometimes the record is jazzy: Heavy acoustic bass and scattered drums, but alternately, tabla and sitar, are the key focus of the final track. It seems that Hebden is quite happy in any musical setting he creates. None of the album sounds contrived, and there's an underlying earnestness that provides real credibility. Some of the record sounds, at times, like the more sampled passages of Fridge, but not as austere. If you're feeling fed up with stale, predictable electronica, or feeling ready to brave the shores of the electro-isle, this is an excellent album. (

Stridulum EP - (2010)

Since her debut lp for Sacred Bones last summer, Zola Jesus's profile has grown exponentially. Her video for Clay Bodies debuted on The Fader and her likeness was plastered all over the Internet. The Spoils made dozens of year-end lists including The Wire, Pitchfork, The Fader, and Dusted, and fans and critics alike now seem rabid for new material. So without further ado, here is Stridulum, the new, far less lo-fi 6-song ep from Nika Roza Danilova. Recording her vocals for the first time with professional instruments, Nika's voice is brought to the powerful forefront of the mix unleashing the full range of emotions that had previously only been hinted at in her previous work. It's a siren song for the apocalypse, which manages to come across immensely nurturing at the same time.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Plays The Residents - (2005)

Narcophony is not done with visiting houses, haunted by the memories of these last thirty years most frantic musicians. After Nurse With Wound, they are getting down to the mind-expanding work of the most phenomenal San Francisco pop combo: The Residents. Armed with a number of musicians balanced around the duet made by Eric Aldéa and Ivan Chiossone, with Christine Ott (collaborations with Radiohead, Yann Tiersen... - Ondes Martenot), François Cuilleron (ex-Bästard- guitars and violin) and Hasmig Fau (cello), Narcophony recycles 13 tracks chosen among the very first works of The Residents (from 1974 to 1985) with the same characteristic unrestrained energy of the avant-garde band. Reached by the playfulness of contemporary Kraftwerk, the band turns on an amazing switch from analogical to acoustic. Keeping most of the patterns for the timeless Ondes Martenot (father of electronic music), the band takes up the mischievous orchestrations with impulsive strings and other intrusions of rare instruments. A weird masterstroke that intensifies the most resourceful period of The Residents. From “Mystical “Festival of Death” to fleeting adventures of “Vileness Fats”, “Narcophony play The Residents” makes a far-reaching diversion. Taking over highly condensed “Commercial Album”, (1980), they dissect its pop hits each of them being heightened by an extra minute, and enter the world’s saddest songs hall of fame with cult track “Hello Skinny”. To revisit American music’s history through a series, was one of The Residents ambitious projects, stopped while in progress. Narcophony keeps the magic up with “Jambalaya” by Hank Williams, and makes it slide in an unlikely acrobatic way. Narcophony also made a new version of another abortive plan: fiery “Whatever happened to Vileness Fats”, the ardent soundtrack to a feature-length film put on hold, eventually finds, here an unexpected outcome. As The Residents did before with The Beatles on their first album “meet The Residents” (1974), Narcophony, as a master, plays with raw material and carries on a history full with vivid developments, with the same agitation as their elders once did.

Zoned - (2009)

German art rock band 39 Clocks were known for pranksterism and the destruction of the clubs in which they'd perform. Theirs was a sound attuned to classic American punk/Nuggets. This collection was put together with the non-completist in mind (originals of some of these records are extremely rare), intending to display the general 39 Clocks vibe, but also some of their more curious wrinkles. A thrilling introduction to this German band. Compiled in reverse chronological order from 1987-1980, this showcases a sound that was an arty mix of psychedelic punk and the chugging repetition of Velvet Underground or Suicide, given a touch of new wave spraypaint through its guitar / synth / drum machine combination. This could be one of 2009's essential re-issues.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Soul Kiss (Glide Divine) - (1992)

Spectrum's debut album — and at the start, at least, it was something of a regular functioning group — follows on readily from the end of Spacemen 3 and Sonic's own solo album Spectrum. It's the same lyric obsessions, combination of simplicity and overdrive in the music and the inexpressible spark which so often transforms Sonic's music from celebration of the past into its own boundless future. His partners on the record — multi-instrumentalist Richard Formby and the Mike Stout/Geoff Donkin rhythm section — readily kick up the right level of energy or drowsy passion needed. The hands-down pop winner comes right at the start — "How You Satisfy Me," a near perfect garage-rocker ready for Nuggets combined with more tremolo and flanging than the world should readily be able to handle and a killer chorus. From there, Soul Kiss generally explores things on a much calmer note, with any number of audio clues pointing toward Sonic's next major effort, Mesmerised by EAR. Consider the slow drones and swirling sounds in "Neon Sigh," which while far more minimal than the early EAR material definitely follows the same general pattern of open-ended exploration, drifting in space. Concluding track "Phase Me Out (Gently)" takes this to an even more extreme level, a 15-minute overlay of wordless vocals and tones that lives up to its name in fine fashion. When Spectrum focuses on more traditional song structures, the results are engaging, Sonic's own brand of light gauze over gentle chords. "Waves Wash Over Me" has perhaps his highest singing ever, not so much a whisper as a breeze from above, while "Sweet Running Water" is as perfect a bliss-out as anyone could ask, a slow cascade of feedback and rhythm. Various guests, including regular collaborator the Jazz Butcher on sax and, also on that instrument, Kevin Martin, sometime EAR partner, contribute here and there to the proceedings. (

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The White Birch - (1994)

The final Codeine release, The White Birch, finds the band stretching out more beyond its usual style here and there, while still pretty much sounding like it always has. It's not quite a case of "heard one, heard them all," but at points it's hard to see how they would have continued without completely repeating themselves. There is a slight change in the lineup, with Douglas Scharin replacing Chris Brokaw, at that time fully involved with Come, on drums, while David Grubbs once again guests, playing guitar on "Tom" and "Wird." He's not fully noticeable on either track per se, but his playing doesn't take away anything from the overall mood or performance either. John Engle's own lead guitar work now often has a stronger, stentorian sense of playing than before, in part resulting from the greater sense of space in a number of songs. While there was a relative calm on moments of Frigid Stars, here there's even more of it — not quite relaxed, but allowing more stripped-down moments to come in along with the thicker roil of cuts like "Vacancy" and the searing, compressed snarl on "Washed Up." The opening cut "Sea" captures that well, especially given that Stephen Immerwahr's vocals are as lost and murky in the mix as they've ever been. Other moments betray what sounds like a Slint touch here and there — not surprising given the Louisville connection via Grubbs and others (indeed, Louisville as a whole is specifically thanked in the credits). Scharin, meanwhile, throws in a couple of extra fills and subtle touches along the way, though whether this results from what he brings to the band or just a change in style from the band as a whole is not immediately apparent. Ending with the soft contemplation of "Smoking Room," White Birch sees out Codeine's career on a strong enough note. (

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tweedles Instrumental (Tabasco) - (2010)

Following in the footsteps of the successful release of River of Crime: Instrumental and Animal Lover:Instrumental, Tweedles: Instrumental is more than just non-vocal versions of the songs. Instead, the album is a three piece suite that was originally written to represent air, earth, and water. Originally, the project's working title was "Tabasco" and over time, it evolved into "Casanova's Clown" until finally becoming Tweedles.

Love Henry - (1996)

The Clusone Trio (comprised of Michael Moore on alto, clarinet and flute, cellist Ernst Reijseger and drummer/percussionist Han Bennink) is so humorous and accessible that they could be considered avant-garde jazz for listeners who do not like the avant-garde. This live set finds the group playing spontaneous medleys with eccentric sound explorations leading to off-the-wall standards, including several Irving Berlin songs, Lee Konitz's "It's You" and Johnny Mercer's "Cuckoo in the Clock." One of the most colorful and satisfying regular groups in the more exploratory side of jazz (each of its members has his own sound and the ability to switch between several styles), the Clusone Trio's recordings are all worth experiencing several times. This nutty but generally logical performance is no exception and is better heard than described.

Fuckbook - (2009)

One of the seminal bands on the Connecticut punk scene, New London's Condo Fucks could match any of their peers for sheer sneering attitude on their classic (if hopelessly obscure) albums Movin' In, Straight Outta Connecticut, and For Squatters Only. But despite their fearsome reputation, the Condo Fucks faded away rather than burning out in the mid-'80s, but in 2008 the band accepted an invitation to stage a surprise reunion show for the closing of the beloved New York City venue Magnetic Field. After the success of the gig, the Condo Fucks made a welcome return to the studio, but rather than re-record old favorites like "Fucking Gary Sandy," "I Hate Nutmeg," and "Hot Rails to Hartford" or struggle to write new songs that could match their power, the Condos opted to pay homage to their roots, cutting a set of covers that would honor their influences. Fuckbook reveals that the Condo Fucks haven't lost their spark after more than two decades out of action, and...OK, joke's over — while the people involved appear to have spent at least an hour creating a back story for this album, the truth is the Condo Fucks are the not-so-secret identity of Yo La Tengo, who bash through a wide-ranging set of covers on Fuckbook with a grimy attack that makes the Mummies sound like Genesis. Anyone expecting the sort of imagination and care Yo La Tengo put into their earlier (almost) all-covers album Fakebook will either be confused or appalled with the Condo Fucks, but there's a certain amount of purpose behind all the slop. Look past the low-tech one-take recording and the vocals that display more beer-enhanced confidence than skill and you'll discover that Yo La Tengo play this stuff with plenty of fire and a shade more skill than the gig necessarily requires, and they sure sound like they're having a great time tearing through the songbooks of Slade, Richard Hell, the Electric Eels, the Flamin' Groovies, and (of course) many more. If you were to see Yo La Tengo playing a house party where they decided to swan dive into a set of covers like a semi-inept garage band after a few too many cocktails, what you'd get would be the Condo Fucks, and Fuckbook shares that show with the world. It's as much of a prank as an album, but after over 20 years as one of America's most consistently rewarding indie rock acts, Yo La Tengo are entitled to a bit of fun, and Fuckbook is a dose of sloppy thunder that's a hoot if accepted in the proper spirit, and if nothing else it sure gives the Replacements' The Shit Hits the Fans a run for its money. (

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