• Why my top 15 suck

    Abr 27 2010, 3h02

    I was inspired by this bloke here and thought I too would demonstrate my incredible skills of not taking music seriously.

    Band Of Susans play an ugly, grimy NYC version of shoegaze and wrote songs about nuclear war and the proletariat, and are now utterly forgotten by everyone, including some of their former members probably. Wait, why don't hipsters adore this band yet? Maybe they're all misogynists.

    Amon Düül II Most people probably couldn't tell the difference between them and Pink Floyd except by careful listening, which would reveal that their songs all remain at the phase of "hazy formless jamming" without ever settling on any sort of tune except maybe in the last minute or so.

    Thin White Rope I honestly couldn't explain why I like this band. Their dirty, hairy guitarist even played nude on a bet once, and I had the misfortune of running across the video on YouTube. Fuck the internet.

    Boris Just browse around their shoutbox for a few minutes. And you can never tell just how seriously they take their music. I mean the wooooing drummer guy sounds like he does, but I don't know.

    Cul de Sac Well they made a few albums of twangy surf guitar with annoying electronic buzzes and whooshes overlaid, and they're the first band ever to be called "post-rock", which ushered in that wonderful age of obsessive and utterly meaningless band-labeling that we all bask in today.

    King Crimson Robert Fripp is a massively pretentious twat who likely has Asperger's. He charges too much for CDs, he won't let any King Crimson be played on the radio here, and he has his lawyer persistently take down every single KC vid that gets posted on YouTube. Few people can boast of having greater contempt for their own fans. Or maybe he just thinks he's such a magnificent commodity that we don't need to actually hear any of his music to buy up whatever comes out.

    Spiritualized I stopped following them after "Songs in A&E" because it sounded exactly, and I do mean exactly, how I vaguely imagined the new Spiritualized album would sound. Maybe I'm the only one. Maybe me and Jason Pierce have some kind of crazy brain link going. But in any case it's hard to not be a bit disappointed.

    Swans Again, just look at the shoutbox. And Michael Gira deserves some kind of recognition both for being a towering, monolithic bastion of artistic integrity, but also having comparatively minuscule songwriting ability. Do any of his songs other than the industrial sludge not have clumsy lyrics? And speaking of minuscule, you'll get a nice good look at his cock if you visit the page right now. I guess public castration was a good idea.

    Gong Hoo boy, a nice slow one. Gong are the most stereotypical hippies you will ever see. They're still around today, and they're just as stereotypical as ever, except maybe Hillage, who had a real career. If your friends ever hear you listening to this band, you will for sure never live it down. Unless your friends are the sort who wear hemp sandals.

    Brian Eno I could complain that his own artistic inclinations have imprisoned him in the very genre he created. But he also made all the default Windows sounds, apparently. So fuck you for that, Brian Eno.

    Killing Joke As my peer has mentioned, their music is generally "ugly", though more than that, it's extremely repetitive and extremely repetitive. What's really worth mentioning though, is that Jaz Coleman is completely batshit bonkers. He's more crazy than Anton Newcombe and Syd Barrett stapled together. Reading his interviews is probably more entertaining than any of the music.

    Faust I guess the biggest reason I like this band is that I like to imagine the board room at Polydor Records when they played their first album there for the first time. The one that was supposed to come from the "German Beatles." The one they had written themselves into a contract for, by which they would release and market it no matter what. Listen to that album and imagine that room full of suits. That's comedy. No real reason to listen to it otherwise though.

    Can I'm surprised more people don't complain about Malcolm Mooney being replaced with a bleary-eyed Japanese hobo who was high out of his mind through the entire '70s. Then again, there aren't many other people who could tolerate 21-hour recording sessions.

    Hawkwind Someone said "it's just pub rock with wooshes over the top" which may be right, except I've no idea what "pub rock" is, but I'd bet Hawkwind invented it. What's often forgotten though, is that they're still trudging along today, 40 years on, and have been dropping out albums on a semi-regular basis in that time too. But they should really just change the name to "Dave Brock Doesn't Know Any Other Way to Pay the Bills" at this point.

    Loop Oh boy, this really reflects badly on me as the #1. Loop wrote maybe three songs at most, and spread them out over three albums. It's ironic but unintentional that it's threes, as in Spacemen 3, because I'm not going to say Loop ripped them off. Pete Kember claimed that, and Pete is colossal twat who I'm pretty sure has pissed on everyone he's ever worked with. He said that heroin is perfectly good for you, and was still living with his mum during the band's lifetime. Yeah, I'm trashing Pete instead of Loop, but he really deserves it. Plus if you can imagine Spacemen 3 on the worst acid trip imaginable that's more or less what Loop sound like.
  • Record Reviews 3

    Set 12 2009, 2h18

    Delving into some of that “freak folk” business that's got all the kids dancing these days.

    Six Organs of AdmittanceThe Manifestation
    The long, strange career of Ben Chasny has brought him so far just beneath the surface of the popular consciousness, but he has nevertheless retained a large cult following who rabidly pursue the many vinyl-only splits and singles that litter his wake. Fortunately for us all, however, The Manifestation was released on CD the year after its original pressing, and, well, I can see why people would want to go after all those other little odds and ends too. “Cult” is a pretty apt word for describing the SOOA phenomenon as well, as there's few other musicians who can capture the sensations of wafting incense in the medium of sound than Mr. Chasny. The Manifestation is two half-hour long tracks, the original release having only the first, which was some of the earliest material released by Organs, but hum with the kind of musical completeness that only seasoned musicians typically enjoy. The title track can be divided into three separate movements, the first of which can be summarized as a cosmic drone. A throbbing electronic undercurrent drifts steadily through the mix, as restless eastern percussion shivers and dances through shafts of dark sunlight. Muffled throat singing spirals outward into infinity as the drone gives way to the second part, a restless guitar-led number with several shifting layers which only become more meshed and hypnotic as the song progresses. Chasny's unmistakable croon sweeps slowly along like a gray cloud over a central Asian desert at dusk. A mysterious sample of a woman reading some kind of scripture is also half-buried in the mix, further adding to the mountains of mood. Lurching, drifting, and shimmering, the song's layers gradually fall away, leading to yet another bottomless electronic drone, reminiscent of some of Robert Hampson's acousmatic work. This too fades out amid a frenzy of string-scraping, leading into the final part, a sort of coda. A sparse, hollow reprise of the second movement echoes in the space left by the passing of whatever luminous being was conjured during the making of the track. The second track, “The Six Stations” appears only on the CD issues, and even in the company of another half-hour odyssey, is challenging. Hissing fuzz that one might hear when playing a decades-old LP for the first time in as much time permeates the whole track. It's not hard to be discouraged by this, and indeed any but the most hardcore Chasny (or very vintage record) fans probably will be. Nonetheless, the track is a strange but worthy companion for the self-titled, featuring a long interval of classic guitar-picking giving way to a spoken-word reading of a poem about the nature of things. Neither of these tracks will find themselves being played very often, but fans of folk, psychedelic, esoterica, or anything in between will find them a more than welcome acquisition.

    James BlackshawLitany of Echoes
    Mr. Blackshaw has been making a lot of noise in certain circles as of late, not so much for his mastery of the 12-string acoustic guitar (which is immediately apparent), but for the stirring, slowly simmering moods his compositions evoke. Blackshaw's is indeed more ambient music ambient than anything else. What Florian Fricke did with the Moog, so he does with the guitar (and at times the piano). Litany is his most recent release behind the just-out Glass Bead Game, and like everything he's set his hand to as of yet, it's delicate, austere, and positively mesmerizing for those who have an ear to lend it. Blackshaw uses his ability to fingerpick not to grandstand, but to weave a tapestry of sound that can sweep the listener up and away through lengthy passages, sometimes with the aid of piano or other instruments, sometimes with only the sound of the guitar. Litany is the most willfully complex of his albums, key tonality shifts as melodies spiral outward and in upon themselves, “Shroud” especially sound like it easily could have been two or three guitarists playing in unison. Litany doesn't deviate too much from his previous output in terms of style or content, nor does it bring any new variations to his musicianship, but there are small touches that consolidate the songs around a certain central motif. Subtle use of synthesizer lends it all a certain spacy feeling, an almost haunting emptiness around which the melodies circle (apt cover art indeed). It has a certain urgency to it too, as evidenced in “Echo and Abyss”, which is a step away from the usual work of the modern acoustic guitarist. Despite these extra touches, Litany ultimately feels as sparse, meditative, and focused as anything he's done. The swirling, kaleidoscopic quality of his playing is freely and purely expressed. And judging by his latest release, this may be the last time we hear music this sparse from him on record for a while.
  • Record Reviews 2

    Mar 17 2009, 23h15

    This time, a double dose of kraut, and a indie pop album I got for free (see end of article).

    Agitation FreeMalesch
    The lost masters of '70s Germany, Agitation Free were perhaps the only band to play during the Olympic Games that go even today with minuscule recognition. Their first album, Malesch, was produced after a lengthy tour of the eastern Mediterranean, which as can be seen just from the cover, left a mark on the band. Every track of Malesch opens and/or closes with a sample recorded during the band's trip, everything from ambient city sounds, to a man singing tunelessly in Arabic. It's a rare debut album that endeavors to pull the listener somewhere. Rather than merely strutting their stuff, the band creates something of a hazy, meditative, proto-ambient location piece. With almost every track going over 6 minutes, there's plenty of time for them to set a mood. And they do so well with slow-building syths accompanied with ethnic singing, gradually moving into hypnotic, slow-burning guitar jams that are outwardly unobtrusive and mellow, but conceal great virtuosity, and at times truly striking harmony. There are few things, however, about the instrumentals themselves that can be identified as “Eastern”, which is what makes the album truly unique. It's a seamless fusion of eastern aesthetic with the band's own unique style. Or to use pretentious review imagery, it's a journey through a north African desert as imagined by a Munich hippie on LSD.

    Amon Düül IIWolf City
    Almost on the flip side of the esoteric Malesch, Wolf City is a high point for the bewildering morass of musicians that comprise the legendary collective. From the get-go, the album seems to be taking a serious stab at mainstream rock appeal. The thundering intro, “Surrounded By The Stars” has falsetto warbling in English, Mellotron flourishes, power-chord bashes, and even some fiddle soloing. If this thing had made it across the Atlantic, I'd bet Rush would try to book them as an opener. However, the bombast doesn't last, at least not in a mullet-friendly form. The album slowly progresses into more familiar territories of experimentation and inward exploration, recalling early Hawkwind's hypnotic jam sessions. Though certain care is taken to keep it all in the realm of listener-friendliness. Bright, airy, and somewhat catchy melodies mark tracks like “Wolf City” and “Wer Der Wind...”, “Sleepwalker's...” especially is a brilliant synthesis of the classic Kosmiche formula with the spirit and harmony of northern progressives like Yes and (Peter Gabriel's) Genesis. The big surprise of this album is “Deutsch Nepal”, an odd sort of synthesizer march with someone rambling in German in the background. I'd guess it's some sort of joke, but not knowing German, couldn't say.

    DuelsThe Barbarians Move In
    About the only general statement I can make about this record is that I've never heard one album go in so many directions at once. There's strings, pianos, trip-hop beats, huge overdubbed choruses, folksy acoustic parts... If this sounds like the work of some hideous emo-prog screech-peddlers, fear not. It's not quite as bad as that. Though there's places where Duels can certainly stand to tone it down, on a whole this is a quite listenable album, and one of the more unique of its kind that I've heard. The opener “The Furies” is sure to whet the appetite, twangy guitars, and subsonic bass giving it an almost Morricone-y desert feel, with singer Jon Foulger sounding an awful lot like he of Thin White Rope. Later on though, their energy becomes a little too channeled into aforementioned canned vocal blasts and cliche-tronics. It's like if the Editors took bumps to the head, and thought they were Muse for about 15 minutes. But they do regain their voice later in “This Year's Man”, offering more moody, driven, stripped-down melange. The song following it is possibly the best on the album, starting with an electronic ambience almost like an ER, and slowly building with quiet pleas for a final sacrament, then crescendoing with a triumphant return to life, and all with little more than a bass, acoustic guitar, and voice.

    As of this writing, The Barbarians Move In is available in its entirety as a free download from the band's website.
  • Record Reviews 1

    Fev 1 2009, 20h12

    Bardo Pond - Lapsed
    Well, I have to say, if there had never been a Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, or Flying Saucer Attack, this would have been a pretty interesting album. But unfortunately for the stoner/droners, everything they're attempting here has been done, and done better. Actually the closest comparison I can think of is BJM's debut Methodrone, though with the pop sensibility replaced with a kind of restless, agitated funk that puts this more in line with Slint, and their innumerable spawn. This might seem like a compliment, but bear in mind any instrumental finesse that the band might be hiding here is buried under blankets of featureless guitar fuzz. Basically what I'm getting at is that the album is a whole lot of distorted guitar racket with some whispers and groans popping up at intervals. I know that's what Shoegaze (and all manner of other groups/scenes) were all about, but they did it so much better. Ride threw '60s psych into the mix, FSA did Krautrock, but Lapsed just sounds like a formless, uninspired mess for the most part. The lone exception would be the 15 minute closer Aldrin, where the band seems to try to make up for all the previous fuzz pedal abuse by giving us a farily minimal, spacey chunk of plucking that probably won't irritate.

    Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
    Flash back 30 years. The first wave of psychedelia is dying out, the Summer of Love is over. The world of popular music is at a point of transition. It is at this time that people with actual music education begin taking interest. Stockhausen's students started forming bands in Germany, and Brian Eno started Roxy Music. I think it's pretty safe to say that Eno's side of the band gave it its noteworthiness. Whereas Ferry pulled the band towards the past, Eno pushed forward into the future, into what was then Progressive, and what is now, well, everything in music. But enough of the history lesson. Tiger Mountain was Eno's second album after leaving Roxy in the early 70s. It is very possibly the best experamental pop album of the decade. Tight, aggressive, spacey, complex, almost every quality you could associate with music of the time is here, and all bound together with melody and charm that makes it instantly likeable. Eno's songcraft is certainly at the center, but it wouldn't be possible were it not for Phil Manzanera manipulating his guitar seemingly in ways known only to him. There's probably nothing I can say about this album that hasn't been said already, so I'll just leave it at "go buy it now, you won't regret it."