Monday, December 27, 2010
Behold, ladies and gentlemen, one of the greatest bands of the last two decades, no questions asked. Stereolab were formed in 1990 by like minded music enthusiasts Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier. Throughout their career, they've been called fiercely independent and creative, both of which would somehow still be understatements in comparison to what they've accomplished over their time. From their early jangle pop and c86 incarnations they transformed into children of the Velvet Underground and heirs to the krautrock scene, without losing their pop sensibility or the passion for experimentation on album, the evolution continuing over the course of their career (and all the way upto Mary Hansen's unfortunate death in 2002, no two albums had anything in common except for the fact that they were all masterpieces). Now with so many fucking good Stereolab albums and compilations (yeah they have about 5cds worth of non LP material which is just as good) I'm going to have to take some time to get through them all, so I'll just start with my favourite of theirs, their major label debut; Transient Random Noise Bursts with Announcements - and a top 5 album of the 90's for me.
Sometimes I have to be in the mood for this. But when I am, nothing else will even begin to suffice. Every single song on this is its own beast, whilst still retaining the signature Stereolab sound. Not a wasted note here, this album basically showed that the band is more than faithful to its name and were pioneers to the exact revolution they idealised in their songwriting. And oh yeah, Jenny motherfuckin' Ondioline. 'Nuff said.
If there's been a way to build it, there'll be a way to destroy it
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sly and the Family Stone were an American funk and soul band from San Fransico, California. Active from 1966 to 1983, the band was pivotal in the development of soul, funk, and psychedelia. Headed by singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi instrumentalist Sly Stone, and containing several of his family members and friends; as well as one of the first important groups to have a racially integrated, multi-gender lineup, something quite unheard of in the music scene in the late 60's. They released a whole bunch of albums; 2 of which were masterpieces that still hold up today. This is their best album in my opinion, the 1971 behemoth 'There's a Riot Goin' On'
Urban legends are cool. One says that where Marvin Gaye searched and pondered what exactly had come to be in his time with the aptly titled "What's Goin' On?", a slightly less known musician (but equally, if not more talented) called Sly Stone responded with this album. With the death of the 60's, came also the death of a lot of the expectations and ideals the 60's had envisioned. Political strife, police brutality, assassinations, the fall of the social rights movement and general social disillusionment brought forth by events of the era were the zeitgest of the day, and Sly Stone had been off the map for nearly 2 years following the hugely optimistic and colourful 'Stand', the band's previous release. Prior to recording this album, Sly Stone more or less locked himself up in a studio, and fuelled by the aforementioned air of negativity, chooses to create a haunting conceptual album whilst spiralling under the heavy weight of substance abuse and worsening relationships between him and his band. The result is jaw dropping; a man left with his thoughts, employing a minimalistic, murky approach to his funk, lays down some of the bleakest soul music ever seen. Features some of the earliest and creative use of overdubs and rerecording, drum machines (on the lead single "Family Affair"), the drug induced euphoria of the opening "Luv n Haight", the satirical take on country on "Space Cowboy", the album is produced just as well as the material it contains - Sly's voice feels like a distant, disorienting lament of a man on the edge as opposed to a stagefront croon that he had trademarked on his previous albums. The album closer "Thank you for talkin' to me Africa" is essentially a slowed down version of a previous single of theirs "Thank you for lettin' me be mice elf again", is absolutely devastating in it's simplicity; a bluesy number on hedonism and self resignation that goes on for a good 7 minutes, but still feels exceedingly short. All in all, a fitting epitapth for the end of the last great decade of social optimism and upheavel - the darkest psychedelic funk/soul album put to record is also one of the most resonant and endlessly fascinating albums of all time; both in songwriting and scope. In my opinion, There's A Riot Goin' On sits comfortably as one of the ten best albums of the 1970's, and has stood the test of time as an all time great.
Thank you for lettin' me be myself again
Friday, December 17, 2010
The KLF were a British band, pioneers of electronic and ambient music in the early 90's. Though they were predominantly working in the field of electronica, the control they maintained over their own art and their distaste for the corporate music business is probably unparalleled in music history. In 1990, they released Chill Out, one of the most influential and kickass ambient albums put to record. Check this out:
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
So I'm gonna step up my blog posting, probably include linkage to my favourite movies as well. Laziness and procrastionation is not a good mix. Can't remember what the fuck I was doing in November. Ah well.
For music, I'm going to post all my favourites/classics, then get to the more esoteric stuff. Stick around, whoever it is that may visit - I've got a lot of stuff I wanna share.
For music, I'm going to post all my favourites/classics, then get to the more esoteric stuff. Stick around, whoever it is that may visit - I've got a lot of stuff I wanna share.
In an ideal world, The Chameleons are selling out stadia of fans, and are one of the most successful bands in the history of popular music; while U2 have slipped into obscurity because of their utter mediocrity. Basically, reality check isn't so pretty, and somehow this immensely talented band slipped through the cracks to become the quintessential 80's band you've never heard of. Here's their debut, Script of the Bridge - a post punk masterpiece disguised (blame the cover art) as a bargain bin piece. One of the finest albums of its time, and still sounds so damn good today. The guitar interplay is fantastic, the lyrics are poignant and the sound is, well, timeless; in many ways it serves as a sort of 80's Ok Computer; with its unique atmosphere and themes of alienation and disconnect. Bono+Edge, you guys are fucking hacks for ripping off and watering down this sound. Another insight:
Monday, December 6, 2010
Ahh, to be a music fan is to come to terms with the fact that, while there is so much good stuff out there, most of it goes largely unnoticed, even by music enthusiasts themselves. Such is the case with Prolapse, a band that formed in Leicester in about 1992; and wearing their krautrock and post punk influences proudly on their sleeves - churned out 4 albums of near perfect music, and disappeared into nothingness. This is their best album, The Italian Flag; I could just keep praising it to high heaven but all I'll say is that this is one of the top 10 albums of the 90's. For a decade with so much fantastic music, it's a crime to let a band this unique and inventive go ignored. So without further adieu; here's an awesome piece on The Italian Flag from the now defunct Stylus Magazine.Rest assured that you will listen to this and realise exactly what I'm talking about.
Sometimes reference points aren’t much help, really. I’m really not sure if there’s any records out there quite like this. One day there might be. It’ll probably be successful. The NME’ll like it. The NME liked Prolapse, of course, but back in the dark, distant days of 1998 that didn’t cut much mustard with The British Record Buying Public. At least, not if you were Prolapse. Somehow the idea of a woman from the East Midlands and a big Scottish bloke talking, singing and shouting over, under and at each other while punk, post-punk and shoegaze came together and had an almighty row—somehow, Urban Hymns was more successful. Bizarre.
Prolapse, from what I can gather, were a bunch of C86 kids who met while at university in Leicester and decided to make really depressing music together. The Italian Flag, their third album and the only one that got released on a major label, goes one fuck of a way beyond that. It’s immediate and yet a bit impenetrable at the same time. You could call it pop, but people would give you some very, very strange looks.
One thing you can say with little fear of contradiction is that this is a very grown-up album, not because of the mature qualities of the musicianship or whatever people are saying about Doves this week but because of the darkness of the sound, not in the modern whining sarcasm that passes for wit too often nowadays, but the seriousness of the thing. Guitars are hefty, nervous, oppressive, edgy, scratchy. Linda Steelyard and Mick Derrick’s vocals are… it’s difficult to know what to say. She: clipped, hard East Midlands tones, sometimes lost in the mix, like being called to by ghosts, playing at girlyness, other times irritable, skulking shrugs, sometimes just plain fucked off. He: rasping Glasgae yelling, or low, threatening murmurs and whispers; sometimes he sounds drunk, sometimes he sounds fucking unhinged.
The songs are monsterpieces of repetition and freeform clashing together, not ‘uncomfortable’, not ‘awkward’, just intensely brilliant. The energy is immense. ‘Slash/Oblique’ lunges in early. Steelyard coos “You, will, ne, ver, un, der, stand, me,” then babbles “IknowIneedmyheadexaminedIknowIneedmyheadexamined,” and Derrick throws himself in, yelling incomprehensibly wherever he can. The drums charge throughout, fit to burst, going so fast they’ve forgotten who’s meant to be keeping up with who. ‘Deanshanger’ is slower. Nearly more conventional, a bassline driving it along neatly—there’s some verses, and a chorus… it could almost be normal, were it not for the fact that Derrick is still making Aidan Moffat sound like Stephen Fry, there’s bagpipes that sound like they’re hurling invective at a cabinet minister and the chorus is actually just Steelyard singing some words that sound vaguely French but don’t actually make any sense. Still, she gets to be the shouty one on ‘Day At Death Seaside’, yelling “HAD TO LEAVE! BOUND TO LOSE! HAD TO LEAVE! BOUND TO LOSE!” amid horrible fairground organs and her yelling at someone about Oprah Winfrey and clearing the fucking mantelpiece. ‘Autocade’, on the other hand, sounds like Lush (that’s a very good thing) and doesn’t feature Derrick, because he thought it wasn’t very good. It really is depressing how little influence Prolapse have had on the British music industry.
It’s intense, serious, grown-up, and incredible fun. ‘Killing The Bland’ (“I might have to kill you, which wouldn’t be fair. On me.”) could legitimately have been a proper hit single, We All Shout Together as the backing goes all psycho-punka and decides to race Derrick and Steelyard to see who can finish theirs first. ‘Visa For Violet And Van’ is the sort of song that swallows you completely whole, the pace militaristic and unrelenting for six minutes, a pounding, punishing rhythm destroying everything in its path without blinking. The guitar wanders and wails all over, lost and wounded. Steelyard sounds calm, detached. “My floor, kitchenware, underwear, haircare!” Derrick is on top form, screaming his verses, sneering his chorus (“Ah wis always wan point wan point wan point wan point wan ae thim!”), sounding like he’s making wanker signs right up in your face and could not give a shite what you’re thinking about that. A minute and a half from the end it dissolves into feedback and crashing. You barely notice.
There’s really nothing quite like Prolapse—too complex and hefty for punk, too bold and fast (and, to be honest, fun) for shoegaze, too fucking odd for pop. ‘Indie’ feels like a whole can of worms that doesn’t merit touching, but maybe that’s just what Prolapse were, a properly independent band who didn’t appear to give the slightest fuck for what other people thought of them (as opposed to the kind of band who repeatedly declare that they don’t give a fuck what other people think of them) because they were rather too busy being themselves. It’s annoying that they completely vanished in 1999 after their final album, Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes, and that nowadays they seem to exist solely in the memories of music journalists. Despite the fact that Prolapse ran almost directly parallel with my teenage years, I didn’t actually know they’d existed till just before they split up, and I only started getting into them in about 2001, which is fucking stupid. You look at the raft of mediocre British guitar bands around today, all trying to do something new and different, and you realise that only five or six years ago this lot were everything they could never be. And it pisses you off ever so slightly.
I know I need my head examined
Television were a band formed in 1973and were active in NYC during the nascent of the punk and the new wave scene. A regular at the now defunct CBGB's scene, they never really achieved much fame but were to be immensely influential in the canon of alternative music with the release of 1977 album, Marquee Moon. Together, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd would form a guitar team that would define their sound and pave the way for a lot of great alternative music that was made in the 80's (and of course subsequently, in the nineties and noughties). Very few things done by two guitars in a band comes close to this. An insight from a fellow rymer, unearth.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Galaxie 500 were an indie rock band from Boston, MA. Their signature hazy, lethargic and psychedelic sound was to be a major influence on dozens of great bands in years to come. In 1989, they released their magnum opus, On Fire.
Really, this is a record about nothing at all. Most albums are thematic, trying to fill in the voids and the mundane moments of human existence; whereas this album cherishes those moments. Dean Wareham's idiosyncratic voice and his nonchalant yet unique style with the guitar backed by what was probably one of the most understated rhythm sections of all time in Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang. The result is one hell of a nostalgic record washed with melancholic delay and reverb, and a sound that is far ahead of its time. Simply one of the most underrated albums of the 80's - every note and chord seems perfectly poised and every other flaw on 'On Fire' exists just to add to its character. Winter beckons, believe you me this will be a worthy companion for evenings when you don't really feel like doing anything at all.
Watching trees decompose
Monday, October 25, 2010
Ladies and gents, the most gorgeous woman of all time, French chanteuse, ye-ye/style icon, Françoise Hardy. Her 1971 album La Question is definitely one of the most delicate and beautiful records I have ever heard. Listen for yourself.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Joy Division are, hands down, one of the greatest fucking bands of all time. Their debut, Unknown Pleasures, set new benchmarks in alternative music, and is without a doubt one of the finest and most influential records, ever. The fantastic album art describes it to a tee really, nothing before or after, only an erratic yet channelled burst of creative genius in the middle.
So, It's 1979, and punk is pretty much dead - all the energy, bravado and balls it had is seemingly on life support. Enter Joy Division - four Mancunian lads who manage to paint a musical landscape that mirrors their own existential dread. This musical landscape, although a product of its time, sounds like nothing that came before it.
You have driving, muscular basslines and a formally dressed vocalist singing in baritone (but never indulging in vocal theatrics) taking the centerstage; always in the company of motorik percussion and an atonal, minimalistic guitar that sometimes growls, and at others provides texture; seemingly mimicking whatever demon it is that was consuming Ian's soul at the time. Martin Hennett's austere, dub-influenced aesthetic recognises the importance of space in a work as bleak as this, and it all sets the stage for telling the tales of alienation, disorientation and despair during Thatcher era UK, in an entirely original way - a driving, metronomic opener in 'Disorder', the haunting, hellish lament of 'Day of the Lords', the maddening riff and subsequent explosion of 'Shadowplay', the chilling, hypnotic bass propelled illustration of epilepsy in 'She's Lost Control' as well as the cathartic build and release of 'New Dawn Fades' which foresees Curtis' losing struggle to maintain his lifestyle - "a loaded gun won't set you free, or so you say." There is also the vacuous anti-anthem in the closer "I Remember Nothing", by this point all corporeal relevance seems to have been uprooted and shot calluously into deep space, leaving behind only echoes of sorts - "Me in my own world, you there beside; the gaps are enormous, we stare from each side"
Raw, relentless and visceral, Unknown Pleasures is much more than an insight to a restless soul bearing the brunt of decay; it's also a definitive segment of alternative music history as we know it. You just can't go wrong here.
A loaded gun won't set you free, or so you say
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Pram are an experimental band based in Birmingham. Originally from Yorkshire, Rosie Cuckston and Matt Eaton went to school together. Along with drummer Andy Weir, the three then moved to Birmingham in the late 80's. A chance meeting between Rosie Cuckston and Sam Owen at a local supermarkets Singles Night started off the unique band. They began gigging under the name Hole in 1988. The only sounds included her eerie vocals and a home-made theremin. Matt Eaton later joined the band playing multiple instruments. Keyboard player/sampler Max Simpson also joined, with Sam playing bass and Andy Weir on the drums. The band's first album "Gash" was self-released and sold by mail order and at gigs, and is now completely out of print (sells for about $500 on Ebay).
Friday, September 10, 2010
At this point in time, you all should know that Slowdive are probably my favourite band of all time. No one crafted soundscapes like they did, no other band I know (other than probably Joy Division) has such a flawless discography, outtakes and extras included. I don't have much to say that won't be said in my review, except for the fact that I fucking adore these guys and wish they have a far larger audience than they currently do. So without further adieu, here's their debut.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Burial is a dubstep producer from the UK. Notorious for refusing to appear live or engage in celebrity theatrics, he's remained true to his ideals by releasing two of the most groundbreaking records electronic music had heard in ages. 2-step has never been this introspective, nor has it conjured late night urban landscapes like Burial's second album Untrue does. A review from a fellow rymer, the_sound_reigns:
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
So let me kick things off here. I'd like to start off by posting the album that the blog name is derived from. Let it be known everywhere that Bark Psychosis, the pioneers of the 'post rock' genre in 1994 (with the magnificent Hex), came back ten years later to show the competition how far ahead of the game they still were. Master innovators who use texture and form to fantastic effect. Listen closely and you find enough enigma and intricacy in this record to qualify it as a musical puzzle, one that reveals more every listen. Check out this review from Nick Southall from the now defunct Stylus Magazine.
Vapour trails of distant airplanes turning orange in the sunset, a smear of royal umber bruise. Universes appear within your iris, tremulous rumbles consume miniscule worlds. Glass and metal are pushed beyond physical limits, bend and break. Bark peels like skin from trees. Points of water evaporate under immense heat. Whispers drown out coils of industry. Forward motion is reversed and progresses faster. The church walls begin to close in again, and so you swing aside the oaken door and step outside into the buzzing orange half light another time, people still moving, still alive, even at this time of night, and you melt into the tarmac, the brickwork, the sulphur, the pallid strip-lights…
Shrouded in ten years of mystery and disappearance and elusive ‘other projects’, it’s easy to feel that ///Codename: Dustsucker doesn’t really exist. Bark Psychosis as a band don’t exist anymore, certainly not in the way they did a decade ago. John Ling and Daniel Gish have long since gone, and Mark Simnet exists on ///Codename: Dustsucker only in the form of ‘found drums’. By the time “Blue” was released and the band put on hold in 1994, Bark Psychosis had fallen away, leaving only Graham Sutton. When he put Boymerang aside in 1999 it was only natural to pick up where he had left off: resurrect Bark Psychosis and once again make a music different to that of those elsewhere, everywhere.
Use of shape, space and sound betray ///Codename: Dustsucker’s lineage and creation from the moment a corrupted, familiar melody bleats from the speakers as if it were a forgotten joke. Time is blurred for fifty minutes, topography altered, positions changed, rules of deportment completely unconsidered. It’s clear that ///: is the work of the man behind Hex and the singles compiled onIndependency, but it is not simply a retread of the past, or even a direct continuation of what was left ten years ago. ///: has a decade of space and a lifetime of experience between it and its predecessor; it is necessarily a different beast. Five years of creation have ensured that every detail is deliciously agonised, every note placed with purpose, nothing left to chance except chance (a guitar is knocked over, ruptures sound like fractured bone; a flippant voicemail message given space within the minus seconds). No significance is attached to passing time; dates are ignored, anniversaries forgotten, temporal shifts unnoticed; “From What Is Said To When It’s Read” floats over you on hypnotic waves of guitar and suggestions of electronic noise, before pausing and crashing back with the force of a tidal wave, hushed, devotional vocals subsumed beneath a gorge of sound, absolute calm within absolute intensity. This is just the beginning.
Delayed organs, mouthless do-do-dos and a cascading guitar riff form the bedrock of “The Black Meat”, talk of standing on “black sand” and trees, “one for you / one for me”. Hesitancy, a clock is broken, someone closes a door. A guitar groans and signals the birth of a trumpet, slowly melting into gaseous synths and a whiff of melodica; it comes in two parts like The Isley Brothers through the looking glass. “Miss Abuse” is a cavernous, sinister cloud of dub space, a bassline crawling for a handful of notes every few bars and no more, a kick-drum with arrhythmia, an eptopic heartbeat guiding the song’s progress through vortices of sound towards the moment when a 303 begins, seizing the songs arteries and windpipe and strangling life slowly from it. ///: is uncategorisable, even neologisms fall short now that the old words have been warped. It exists in a space outside of rock, post-rock, jazz, pop, dance and avant-garde, in a nothingness zone, unfettered by genre or gatekeepers.
“Dr Innocuous / Ketamoid” rips apart the fabric at the centre of the album, a distant stamp and tear, Lee Harris using hi-hats and cymbals in a way that makes them sound like broken glass, building an intensity before stop. begin again. piano. count to three. brushed guitar strings. “Did you ever hear the one / About that bird-girl?” A pipe organ breathes for a second. “Burning The City” is an escapist dream, rebellion touched with an elegiac sense of yearning and a wry smile, warm in tone. As is “400 Winters”, caressed by a woman’s voice, tiding on acoustic guitars and falling into piano. “INQB8TR” crawls through infinite dub-space, glades of synth and destructive passages of rich, beautiful noise. “Shapeshifting” tears itself apart with electric guitar scree, filling your head before backwards loops and perpetual-motion drums guide the song through an estuary of found-sounds. “Rose” guides us home under a swell of Germanic trust and nothingness.
///Codename: Dustsucker has been a long time coming (it seems an age since its existence was first even rumoured) and it will not please everyone because it is not a simple relation of Hex. But taken on its own terms it is an outstanding record, multi-hued and consuming, concerned with invented realities and blurred lines in much the same way as Magritte’s pipe and Borges’ invented facts. Agonised, fearful, compelling, beautiful and measured with infinite precision and chaos, ///: is close to miraculous.