Thursday, October 28, 2010

Die Hamletmaschine - (1991)

The theatre and Radioplay ‘Die Hamletmaschine’ by famous German writer Heiner Müller was written in 1977 and is one of the most regarded pieces in modern German literature. Einstürzende Neubauten composed a special ‘soundtrack’ to this successful play, that not only got overwhelming reviews from both the music and theatre press, but also highest recognition from Heiner Müller himself and the composer Wolfgang Rihm, who equally composed music to this play. The CD was recorded in 1990 in the ‘Funkhaus’, the state’s radio of the still existing ‘DDR’ (the comunist East Germany) – a fact that is curious, as it is a clear hint to the lyrics of the play and the ‘Reunification’ of Germany which took place in those days. Blixa Bargeld plays Hamlet and another ‘institution’ of the Berlin art/music scene, Gudrun Gut (MALARIA! Etc.) is Ophelia… Originally released in 1991, this CD was deleted for years and is now finally re-released.

Lay In A Shimmer EP - (2010)

'Lay In A Shimmer' is a perfect example of Pantha's sound, all glistening, spherical high end resonance and considerate padded techno rhythms threaded together with a luxuriant cello line. 'Sonnesturm' takes this sound somewhere a little more intrepid, from tentative, cinematic beginnings he introduces a crafty jacking electro rhythm to the background, bringing forward the sparkling melody until it effervesces in HD right before your ears. On the flip, 'Ursonate 3' changes priorities again though, giving a very dancefloor-optimised piece of deep techno drama before the 'Fata Morgana' version of the title track bends the foreground into sprightly colours which seem to dance towards the horizon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Phosphene Dream - (2010)

When a band opens its album with a song called "Bad Vibrations," hits the midway point with another called "River of Blood," and titles its grand finale "The Sniper," it's safe to assume that the group is not much worried about seeming wholesome and friendly. And even if the Black Angels had given the songs on their third full-length album, Phosphene Dream, titles relating to bunnies, flowers, and ice cream, this music would still cast a long shadow of bad karma; the Black Angels appear to be stoned on the same stuff Thee Oh Sees have been taking for years, but with fewer hallucinations and a good bit more crummy attitude. While most bands following the path of the gloomy and the stoned sound a bit sloppy, on Phosphene Dream the Black Angels feel tighter and more precise than they ever have before, and the unified attack on these tunes helps the medicine go down without robbing the music of its sinister power. The musicians certainly deliver the goods, calling up a web of guitars, keyboards, and drums that thunder and ooze at the same time, and the melodies walk steadily more than they lurch. Producer Dave Sardy gives this music an approach that's just tidy enough, letting the important noise throb purposefully while letting the extraneous noise fall by the wayside, and he manages to make Phosphene Dream sound cleaner than most albums of this ilk without taking the guts out of the sound. And amidst all that is dark and sinister on this album, "Telephone" is a classic bit of garage rock swagger in which the Black Angels reveal they can make music you can dance to when they feel like it. Sometimes being bad can be more fun than being good, and on Phosphene Dream the Black Angels hit that sweet spot more often than not; next time you're having a séance or reenacting the Sunset Strip riots, this is just the soundtrack you need. (

Monday, October 25, 2010

Color Me Babe - (1995)

Color Me Babe pushes through to a new, more accessible plane of Babeness. Without giving any artistic ground, the thicker rock textures, bolder melodies (and singing) and a notch less restlessness conspire to hammer typically oddball ideas like "Ego Pimps," "Axl" (Hanna Fox's womanly dig at the rude rock star), "9/10" and "Health" into inviting shapes that sublimate instrumental arm-waving for less stimulation and greater satisfaction. The distraction level rises from moderate to intense as the album proceeds toward "There's a Hole in the Crotch of My Work Pants," but the folky "King of the Rain" — despite some adroit noise-guitar incursions — is unabashedly lovely, vivid proof of the tender human heart driving this vigorously cerebral corps.

Futurist - (2005)

Alec Empire's Futurist, is the most fully integrated vision of his twenty-first century rebellion yet. A blistering alliance of primitive punk fury and advanced technological overload, Futurist heralds the return of the guitar to the center of Empire's musical vision. The characteristic shockwave aggression of his previous outings is still channeled for maximum impact, but the gun-to-temple blasts of tracks like "Gotta Get Out" and "Vertigo" deliver their powder-keg payloads with a newly discovered blood rush of excitement. Futurist is the most brutally uplifting Empire has ever sounded.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Director's Cut - (2001)

Fantomas stand with their feet planted horizontally across the soft dimensions of your face, warping the shape of your skull and shoulders with their off-color explosions. With expectations withering on the floor, leaving a viscous stink, nothing in their hands is concrete. As a follow-up to their 30-song debut, throughout which vocalist Mike Patton never formed a single actual word, Fantomas offer these 16 new creations, all realigned versions of film soundtracks, ranging from the notorious theme to Rosemary's Baby to the obscure and peculiar wank of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. While there are many similarities to the dispersed flip-flopping styles of their earlier work, The Director's Cut breaks new ground with a thick jagged axe. First, most noticeably, are the even more varied vocal stylings; Patton's sweet croon on "Experiment in Terror" is nothing you've heard before from him on a Fantomas recording, along with many of the other croaking, spitting, pissing, screaming noises he excretes. Yet another testament to the unabashed genius of Mike Patton and his co-conspirators, leaving those caught up in the rapture with mouths even more full with thick drool. (

Alive At The F*cker Club Australia - (1998)

The Melvins have always been a behemoth of a live band -- where the already industrial-strength-heavy riffs of their albums become even more Godzilla-like. And this point is proven further by the 1998 release Alive at the F*cker Club. For those wondering just exactly where "the F*cker Club" is located, the cold hard fact is that there simply is no "F*cker Club." The Melvins' set was taped during 1997, on the second night of a three-night engagement at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia (with the Onyas and the Cosmic Psychos also on the bill). Unfortunately, the source of the recording was allegedly from a second-generation tape of a soundboard recording, so the Melvins' fury is dulled somewhat. However, it's always a pleasure to hear live readings of such Houdini classics as "Lizzy," as well as additional standouts like "The Bloat" and the album opening "Boris" (the latter of which stretches on for six sludge-riff-filled minutes). And for those wondering about the grisly "road kill" photo on the album's cover, according to, it is of a dead dog carcass.

Comets On Fire - (2001)

Santa Cruz noisemakers Comets on Fire's debut recording is basically 32 minutes of screaming garage/psych-inspired insanity. The guitars are loud. Ethan Miller's unhinged vocals are loud. The drums are loud. The songs are short blasts of fury that sound inspired by wild bands from the '60s (Sonics, Blue Cheer), '70s (Stooges, Cramps), and beyond (Jon Spencer, the Make-Up). Helping keep Comets on Fire out of residence in cliché city is the sheer amount of power and abandon the band plays with and the presence of Neil Harmonson on echoplex. The echoplex is an old tape-driven echo and delay unit that can create some wild sonic effects. On tracks like the driving "Graverobbers" or the guitar-mad "Days of Vapors," the vocals are fed through the machine; elsewhere it just makes random weird and cool noises that add a lot of texture and depth to Comets on Fire's sound. This is a hot and exciting record; the energy never flags and the band never turns anything down much below full volume, even when the tempo is slowed on "Let's Take It All." Garage punk fans would be doing themselves a real favor by checking this disc out. This release on Alternative Tentacles is actually a re-release of the band's ultra-rare first record; as a bonus, the reissue contains 28 minutes of a noisy, energy-packed live show that shows the band to be loud, really loud. And pretty loose, too. (

Silver EP - (2006)

Justin K. Broadrick's impressive and storied musical past includes the names of underground heavyweights like Napalm Death and Godflesh, alongside revered avant/industrial pioneers Techno Animal and Ice, but after nearly two decades of diligent stereophonic thrill-seeking, Broadrick has found his true calling in Jesu. This EP is an electro-psychedelic symphony born of the pastoral majesty found around his country home near the English/Welsh border. An icy-sweet combination of tidal guitar resonance and sweeping electronic atmosphere, the four epic tracks within comprise a panoramic snapshot of Broadrick's stunning sonic prowess.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mirrored - (2007)

It's official: in 2007, it's all come full circle. Prog rock has made its way into the indie scene. Battles' Mirrored, their debut full-length after three EPs, makes that plain. Messrs. John Stanier of Helmet and Tomahawk, guitarist/keyboardist Ian Williams of Don Caballero and Storm & Stress, guitarist David Konopka of Lynx, and avant solo musician Tyondai Braxton have constructed an album that combines the best of Van Der Graaf Generator, Magma, Krautrock, and math rock, while coming up with something that stands so far out on the fringe that it is in a league of its own. That so much of this music is created via the magic of software and combined with one- or two-note keyboard and guitar patterns makes it the Philip K. Dick equivalent of modern rock. The intro, "Race: In," comes flying out of the box with a series of rim shots and repetitive guitar lines before Braxton comes whistling into the front end. This is a Disney tune for Snow White by the Seven Dwarfs run amok. The abstract patterns introduced by the keyboards and bassline serve to underscore the melody, complex though it may be, and the sampling sound of hammers creates, at least momentarily, the image of "Whistle While You Work" before the guitars enter full bore and transform it into a full-blown prog jam with tight turns, momentary riffs all the while keeping a motorik drumbeat whether on a snare or a tom-tom. The whistling and wordless vocals that reflect another set of keyboard sounds add depth, humor, and warmth to this underground rainbow. On "Atlas," the title track from the band's last EP, the sound is one of futuristic dragon music à la the conceits of T. Rex without the clever lyrics. Here, the drum shuffle of so many great T. Rex tunes introduces a single guitar riff, warped by sonics and growled vocals that sound like a pig snorting. The intoxication of rhythm is inescapable, even as the David Seville Chipmunk-style vocals -- which could be backmasked -- create a progression for the tune to lift off from. It's tribal and slick, both at the same time. There is even a manipulated -- via the wonders of electronics -- "oo-ay-oo" from The Wizard of Oz scene where the evil Wicked Witch of the West henchmen sing as they march in guard formation around her dark palace. But this music is anything but dark. It's insistent, playful, and planned down to the distorted bass loop and pulsing guitar and keyboard notes that are layered on top in single- or double-note formations. Indeed, Mirrored is the place -- the very terrain -- where nerd science meets rock, and it's a gas. It's the amalgam of "merry melodies" that grabs the listener, even to the point of forgetting how many different arrays of percussion and electric string and keyboard instruments are being played on each and every tune. The sprint that is "Ddiamondd" could be in Christian Vander's Zeuhl dialect, with some of nastiest keyboard bass since the Beastie Boys' "Party's Gettin' Rough." One can hear strains of Gentle Giant in the way vocal harmonies are carefully layered to provide a counterpoint to the knotty riffs being executed. "Tonto" is an exception, where Asian, early American folk melody, and contrapuntal interplay create a long journey into some instrumental netherworld where rhythm and sound don't so much come to a conclusion as collide in variations of tempo and modal changes. "Rainbow" is the albums's longest and most chaotic track, yet it's utterly infectious listening as guitars roar and whoosh through the top of the mix. Rhythmic invention undercuts them and directs the shifts in tempo and even key. In contrast, "Bad Trails," with its synth loop providing a hypnotic inroad into Braxton's singing and shifting strands of guitar, bass, and synth lines, is a bona fide song. "Race: Out," the album's final cut, begins largely as an electronically manipulated exercise is backward tape manipulation; but this is all digital, folks, until the drums enter full bore announcing in short rolls on the toms that something else is about to occur -- and it does. Everything shifts into forward motion again on a dime and the instruments engage each other in a labyrinthine dance of cheap keyboard themes and tight, knotty guitar inventions. Pattern after pattern is introduced, played until it becomes rote, and then shifts itself, by only a couple of notes, into something entirely different as sounds, soundscapes, and instruments engage one another in call-and-response until a fade into silence. Mirrored is unlike any recording out there at the moment. It's loud, funny, and astonishingly sophisticated, and doesn't feel pretentious in the least. Never has the wall of electronic futurism sounded so organic or musical. The album's many influences offer only guide posts, as Battles have their own unique image of a sound universe that one can play in as well as be awed by. (

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! - (1978)

Produced by Brian Eno, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was a seminal touchstone in the development of American new wave. It was one of the first pop albums to use synthesizers as an important textural element, and although they mostly play a supporting role in this guitar-driven set, the innovation began to lay the groundwork for the synth-pop explosion that would follow very shortly. Q: Are We Not Men also revived the absurdist social satire of the Mothers of Invention, claiming punk rock's outsider alienation as a home for freaks and geeks. While Devo's appeal was certainly broader, their sound was tailored well enough to that sensibility that it still resonates with a rabid cult following. It isn't just the dadaist pseudo-intellectual theories, or the critique of the American mindset as unthinkingly, submissively conformist. It was the way their music reflected that view, crafted to be as mechanical and robotic as their targets. Yet Devo hardly sounded like a machine that ran smoothly. There was an almost unbearable tension in the speed of their jerky, jumpy rhythms, outstripping Talking Heads, XTC, and other similarly nervy new wavers. And thanks to all the dissonant, angular melodies, odd-numbered time signatures, and yelping, sing-song vocals, the tension never finds release, which is key to the album's impact. It also doesn't hurt that this is arguably Devo's strongest set of material, though several brilliant peaks can overshadow the remainder. Of those peaks, the most definitive are the de-evolution manifesto "Jocko Homo" (one of the extremely few rock anthems written in 7/8 time) and a wicked deconstruction of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which reworks the original's alienation into a spastic freak-out that's nearly unrecognizable. But Q: Are We Not Men? also had a conceptual unity that bolstered the consistent songwriting, making it an essential document of one of new wave's most influential bands. (

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Filmarbeiten - (1993)

Alexander Hacke was born in the proletarian district of Berlin Neukölln. A musician from the start, he joined Einstürzende Neubauten in 1980 at the tender age of 14, besides playing in numerous influential underground-groups and writing, recording, releasing and performing music under the pseudonym Alexander von Borsig. Throughout the eighties and up until today he not only collaborates with countless artists of various genres but also continues to produce records and score music for theater, feature and documentary movies. Filmarbeiten is a compilation of Hacke's early film-works.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Middle Of Nowhere - (1999)

Electronica routinely covers more ground, more quickly, than any style of music on the planet; the hottest new sound in January is old hat by March and downright foolish to even mention in June. Orbital, however, is the great constant in the world of techno. Every few years, the brothers Hartnoll manage to turn in excellent albums that occasionally reference the latest sound but rarely vary from the chord-heavy melodics of their debut single, "Chime." Though it took a bit longer to release, Middle of Nowhere is another typically excellent Orbital album. Experiments with breakbeats and other styles of music made interesting mixers of their previous two albums, Snivilisation and In Sides, and this fifth album includes nods to big beat-techno ("I Don't Know You People") and soundtrack composers. The latter is hardly a surprise, considering the Hartnolls' sideline gig as score composers (Event Horizon, The Saint). The opener, "Way Out," adds trumpet solos and a symphonic grandeur -- reminiscent of John Barry's scores for the James Bond films -- to the quintessential Orbital sound. Even considering the lack of real progression in sound, Middle of Nowhere reflects the pair once again making all the right moves and not slowing down a bit. (

Mimikry - (2010)

Being friends and admirers of each other’s work for a long time, electronic music composer / visual artist Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai) and composer / voice artist Blixa Bargeld (also known as singer of einstürzende neubauten and guitarist of nick cave and the bad seeds) decided to join forces to initiate a collaborative project in 2007. Together they developed a musical concept based on the combination of improvisation and abstraction. The impulsive live performance of Blixa Bargeld and the elaborated beat structures and sound landscapes of Alva Noto merge to a surprising and unexpected result. Working on their own experimental material that gains its strength from the spontaneity of the live-performance of bargeld’s voice as well as rethinking traditional songs in their own special manner, they deliver an outstanding and inspiring musical blend for their audience. The collaboration first staged in september 2007 when they united for a special appearance in San Francisco to perform at recombinant media labs studios. Since then they have recorded several tracks, five of which have been released on the preliminary EP ‘Ret Marut Handshake’. The full length album Mimikry readopts two original tracks and two alternative versions from the EP while additionally introducing six completely new songs.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady - (1963)

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and — implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist — it's as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle. It veers between so many emotions that it defies easy encapsulation; for that matter, it can be difficult just to assimilate in the first place. Yet the work soon reveals itself as a masterpiece of rich, multi-layered texture and swirling tonal colors, manipulated with a painter's attention to detail. There are a few stylistic reference points — Ellington, the contemporary avant-garde, several flamenco guitar breaks — but the totality is quite unlike what came before it. Mingus relies heavily on the timbral contrasts between expressively vocal-like muted brass, a rumbling mass of low voices (including tuba and baritone sax), and achingly lyrical upper woodwinds, highlighted by altoist Charlie Mariano. Within that framework, Mingus plays shifting rhythms, moaning dissonances, and multiple lines off one another in the most complex, interlaced fashion he'd ever attempted. Mingus was sometimes pigeonholed as a firebrand, but the personal exorcism of Black Saint deserves the reputation — one needn't be able to follow the story line to hear the suffering, mourning, frustration, and caged fury pouring out of the music. The 11-piece group rehearsed the original score during a Village Vanguard engagement, where Mingus allowed the players to mold the music further; in the studio, however, his exacting perfectionism made The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady the first jazz album to rely on overdubbing technology. The result is one of the high-water marks for avant-garde jazz in the '60s and arguably Mingus' most brilliant moment. (

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Factotum - Music From The Motion Picture - (2006)

It may seem odd that a notable Norwegian director (Ben Hamer) would be the one to make a movie about a tortured, against-the-grain cult writer and poet (Charles Bukowski, played by Matt Dillon) who spent all but two years of his life in Los Angeles. But the good news for music fans is the important larger discovery of the incredibly diverse and captivating Scandinavian jazz composer and vocalist Kristin Asbjørnsen. Even without images, the soundtrack to Factotum functions quite well by itself as a haunting, complex, atmospheric work with varied moods and instrumentation. The opener "On the Bus" is just over a minute but brings back magnificent creepy memories of Twin Peaks. After "Reunion," a subtle and graceful solo piano piece, is the chamber music-flavored "I Wish to Weep," featuring the composer's smoky, emotional vocals toiling sweetly over a simple Bukowski poem/lyric that gives the words a scorching urgency. There are other similarly flavored lead vocals (most notably, the classical/folk-tinged "Slow Day,") but Asbjørnsen proves herself equally adept at creating moods with wordless vocals ("Farewell I," "Beside You"). Amidst the largely melancholy vibe of most of these tracks is the rumbling and percussive acoustic jazz magic of the quirkily titled "Pickles." Asbjørnsen, making her composing debut, performs these pieces with her band Dadafon, drawing inspiration not only from her formal jazz education nbut also her love for West African griot singers. A fascinating work. (

And You Thought You Were Normal - (1982, 2002)

This is not just a straight reissue of Nash the Slash's brilliant 1982 release, And You Thought You Were Normal. Instead, Slash rearranged the track order, remastered the old tracks, and added several previously unreleased tunes, which were recorded at the same time and used for various film soundtracks. The result is a stunning CD. Instead of the original concept of the album with vocals on one side and instrumentals on the other, Slash mixes the two together to get a much better flow and a sublime listening experience. Fans of the original album will already know of the beautiful and haunting melodies found here, along with sparse yet effective lyrics (Vincent's Crows and the Daniel Lanois-produced Dance After Curfew are prime examples). The newer material is as strong as the older songs, with the melancholy Lake Ontario Suite (Pts. 1 and 2) as a standout track. The music overall holds up well since it was first recorded in 1982, and the minimalistic production is ideal for the material. Slash is a talented musician, and his violin playing in combination with his electronic gadgets is perfect. This album is essential listening for fans of original and experimental rock. Just make sure the lights are on and you are not alone when listening. One other note: The front sleeve is one of the finest ever designed, which creates the atmosphere before a single note is played.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ctrl Alt Delete - (2010)

Ctrl Alt Delete is a staggering work of mind-warping electronics, fuzzed-out psych and devastating hip-hop beats. Combining dusty swap-meet samples, futuristic synthesizers and live instrumentation, Free The Robots has created a unique harmony of past sounds and future ruminations. Much like his L.A. contemporaries Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing, Free The Robots knows no genre boundaries. Ctrl Alt Delete, which also features Ikey Owens of The Mars Volta, has been a long time coming. Originally signed to Alpha Pup over two years ago, Free The Robots has put his heart and soul into this album. Meticulously constructed, the album is a culmination of countless late nights at Low End Theory, combined with a spirit of fearless experimentation. The result rattles with grit and swagger -- a firm proclamation of Free The Robot's sonic arrival.

Paris '99 (Anthony, Are You Around?) - (2001)

Named after a friend of the band who was instrumental in bringing them to Paris, where this live album was recorded, Anthony, Are You Around? is a more representative account of a live experience with Low when compared to their first official bootleg, the diaphanous One More Reason to Forget. Though the vocals take up a little more than their fair share of the mix (which isn't really a distraction, given the spot-on performance of Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk), the band picked a superlative set to release. With a few refreshingly left-field selections from the band's catalog finding their way onto the set list, all of the subtlety and energy of their best gigs is preserved here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Big Sexy Noise - (2009)

Big Sexy Noise follow up their vinyl mini album with this full blown Self Titled CD. The band, fronted by Lydia Lunch and Gallon Drunk alt-rockers James Johnston, Terry Edwards and Ian White, have recorded a further five Johnston/Lunch originals plus a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover to complement the original six tracks. Big Sexy Noise is the primaeval bump, grind and holler of White's thuggish drums, Johnston's moronic low-tuned riffing and Edwards' brutal organ and sax interventions led by Lunch's take-no-prisoners vocals.

Oneric - (2006)

Boxcutter is an apt title for the songs constructed by one Barry Lynn, from Northern Ireland; the sounds on Oneric are sharp yet utilitarian, rusty and grungy yet dependable. These percussion-riddled dreamscapes (oneiric means "of or pertaining to dreams") reside on the edgier side of the land of IDM, or "intelligent dance music," one of the most egregious misnomers in music categorization ever. Can you dance to it? Sure — its forms are derived from DJ and sample-based techno or dance music. But is it intelligent? Heady yes, but it's much more visceral than intellectual. As is the case with most IDM artists (Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, µ-Ziq, Plaid, Squarepusher, Wagon Christ/Plug, et al.) the rhythm patterns here are derived from dancefloor catalysts but systematically dismantled and reassembled in a way that pleases both mind and body, and may be more appropriate for headphones and the couch than a swanky underground club. Boxcutter manipulates his own electronic micro genre, too: whereas Squarepusher or Amon Tobin exploit drum'n'bass, Aphex Twin tweaks jungle, and Luke Vibert and his ilk implode acid techno, Boxcutter's starting points are the relatively obscure grime and dubstep. Regardless of any needless categorization, the overall sound here most closely resembles his Planet Mu labelmate µ-Ziq, all dark noirish ambience, splattery and disjointed beats, kinetic soundtracks to documentary films about spasmodic alien life forms. "Tauhid" buzzes and lurches its way through an Arabic film noir, until the action sequence takes off with a decidedly Amon Tobin-esque cymbal loop. "Grub" has a µ-Ziq-like flavor, its rhythm seemingly comprised of Brontosaurus stomps and bug zappers. "Skuff'd" exhorts you to "put the drum machine on," then proceeds to crank it to 11 as the boogie bassline and scattershot snares propel you down the intergalactic superhighway. And that's just the first three tracks. This album never lets up and is extremely enjoyable the whole way through, and as Boxcutter's debut it ranks among the finest releases of IDM, whatever that is. (

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