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Records of the Week
DEATH & VANILLA To Where The Wild Things Are (Fire Records) lp 29.00
Death & Vanilla should hardly be a secret anymore, as the Swedish retro-futurist outfit has catapulted their low-key releases on Hands In The Dark to the seminal British independent imprint Fire Records. Those earlier albums were on the shortlist of those albums we'd play in the shop on busy Saturday afternoons, knowing that we'd capture the imagination of our enlightened customers here at aQuarius. In years past, others on that list might have also been Os Mutantes, Neutral Milk Hotel, Boards Of Canada, shit even the Conet Project, and yes The Beta Band (which we had known to tickle the ear well BEFORE it was the punchline in High Fidelity). Seductive retro-art-pop of sci-fi dreaminess and bachelor pad slinkiness, that's the stuff of Death & Vanilla. Their soft-as-snow production has all of the feel of an all analog recording by the Silver Apples or the United States of America, with the ghostly vocals of Marleen Nilsson rippling through the echoplex and spring reverb before settling onto the tactile magnetic tape drawing magical daylight out of the arctic dark nights. To Where The Wild Things Are doesn't seem to have anything to do with the beloved Maurice Sendak book of a very similar name. Given how much control and precision they exact over their references, what else might the title refer to? The interwoven melodies and harmonies for Nilsson's voice, those analogue synths, and the bell-tone tremolo guitars latch onto a deluge of impeccably written drifting waltzes, motorik Kraut rhythms, and jaunty beat-pop grooves. We're not alone in seeing the obvious connection between Death & Vanilla and lamentably late Broadcast; and the Swedes are clearly channeling the ghosts of Broadcast in their studio sessions as seance, but there's much that Death & Vanilla brings to the table that's their own. One of the most charming pop records of 2015.
MPEG Stream: "Necessary Distortions"
MPEG Stream: "Time Travel"
MPEG Stream: "The Hidden Reverse"
RED RED MEAT Bunny Gets Paid (Jealous Butcher ) 2lp 33.00
This former Record Of The Week (on the occasion, in 2009, of Sub Pop putting out an expanded double cd reissue), was reissued at last on vinyl this year for Record Store Day... or supposedly it was, but actually, the copies only just showed up! Well, we'd have wanted a bunch anyway, 'cause, again, it's Record Of The Week. Dunno if we can get more when these run out, as, again, it's a limited Record Store Day release. This edition, the first time it's been on vinyl in 20 years, comes with a download, and additional tracks.So, here's what we said, which is a lot, about this fave before...Red Red Meat barely get a mention on the aQuarius website, mostly in reviews of post-RRM outfit Califone, but as with many bands, that has more to do with timing than anything, predating as they did our New Arrivals list. If there was time, we can think of hundreds of bands we'd love to revisit and give their due. And Red Red Meat would definitely be at the top of the list for some of us. So this deluxe expanded reissue of RRM's 3rd, and arguably best, record makes now as good a time as any to gush a bit about one of our favorite records of the nineties. When Sub Pop began expanding its focus beyond grunge, signing all sorts of bands, from pop to country, slowcore to garage rock, they definitely lost a lot of their hardcore buy-anything-on-Sub-Pop fans. But for many of us, no matter how into the grunge years we were (and believe you me, some of us were WAY into grunge), this shift marked the beginning of Sub Pop's transition into more than a regional label focused on a single sound, and is precisely why Sub Pop continues to thrive while so many other labels fell by the wayside. Among those un-traditionally Sub Pop sounding bands were groups like Codeine, Rein Sanction, Hardship Post, Jale and Red Red Meat, all of which ended up loving as much as if not more than all the classic grunge mainstays. But Red Red Meat, there was just really something special about these guys. They were sort of country, definitely fitting loosely into the burgeoning alt-country movement, but they were so much more, their twang was rooted in a sort of timeless rock, but at the same time it was infused with a druggy warble, wreathed in hazy swirls of whirs and drones, the guitars were murky and muddy, the slide guitar slippery slithery, frontman Tim Rutili's vocals were weary and washed out, emotional, but laid back and slurred, perfectly complimenting the band's warped warble. Bunny Gets Paid, originally released in 1995, found the band pushing their sound even further out, the sound still recognizably Red Red Meat, but from record opener "Carpet Of Horses", the band seemed determined to create some sort of 'classic' bit of drone drenched country blues. Lazily strummed acoustic guitars draped over a whirring fuzzy pulsing drone, the vocals appropriately melancholy, rough and ragged, allowed to drift over the slow shifting drone beneath, almost no percussion, very little structure, the song a living breathing bit of spaced out dream folk, incredible (and incredibly subtle) melodies, a killer main hook, all left to just sort of shimmer and hover and sprawl, sun baked and druggy, like some sort of drugfolk raga, definitely prescient, unwittingly laying out the blueprint for new weird America or freak folk or whatever you want to call it a decade later. But Bunny Gets Paid is not all sprawling oozing melting slow motion blues, the band do rock, "Chain Chain Chain" is some classic sounding nineties indie rock and roll, reminding us of a more classic rock sounding Grifters, but still not losing any of their wooze or warble, the record doused in effects, guitars warped, alternatingly crunchy and jagged, bluesy and ooze-y. "Buttered" is a total heartbreaker, thick steel string strum and twang, subtle strings, effects dappled ambience, thick swaths of whirring drone, the whole thing managing to sound intimate and bedroomy, but also epic and timeless. The classic track here though has to be "Gauze", a moody minor key lope, so laid back and soporific, the guitars spidery and translucent, the vocals seemingly an afterthought, the drums a simple shuffle, lush and intimate and hushed, until the chorus, another gut wrenching heartbreaker, the vocals wrapped in almost Butthole Surfers FX, but done so deftly, that instead of sounding weird or fucked up, it just sound perfect, delivering a total break up /make up mix tape refrain to die for. And so it goes. "Idiot Son" is a the Rolling Stones filtered through nineties indie rock and busted four tracks (with more nods to the Grifters), "Bunny Gets Paid" is another meandering druggy droney drift, disembodied vocals, fragmented guitars and skittery percussion, and another killer hook buried in the murk and mire, and the record continues to unfurl, in all its hazy, lazy, dreamy, wasted, late afternoon, too many beers and broken hearts glory, finishing off with a 2 minute bit of near perfect bedroom folk, peppered with singing strings, reverbed piano, all wrapped around Rituli's gorgeously weathered croon.Absolutely one of our all time favorite records ever. Anyone into Califone, Calexico, Souled American, Giant Sand, Neko Case, Ryan Adams, should absolutely pick this up, and any one into the current crop of freak folk and drone psych who aren't adverse to actual songs, might dig this too. And like the expanded Sub Pop cd, this new vinyl version includes extras - B-sides, alternate versions and covers, makes this essential, even for folks like us who already have it. A 4-track demo of "Chain Chain Chain", less rocking, all stripped down and appropriately lo-fi and languid, a single version of "Idiot Son" that finds the song stretched out even further. Record opener "Carpet Of Horses" gets reworked into a pounding dirge, way more rocking and heavy than the original, but still just as darkly evocative, and there are unreleased tracks, one a weird dub workout, the other three wonderfully weird warbly rockers (one rife with horns) that don't sound at all out of place alongside the rest of Bunny Gets Paid. Remastered, handsomely packaged, includes download as we said, real nice!!
MPEG Stream: "Carpet Of Horses"
MPEG Stream: "Gauze"
MPEG Stream: "Buttered"
MPEG Stream: "There's Always Tomorrow"
MELT-BANANA Return Of 13 Hedgehogs (MxBx Singles 2000-2009) (A-Zap) cd 13.98
We love Melt-Banana. And really, we kind of always have. From the early days when they were a furious frenzied punk band, to their current incarnation of blissed out, glitchy electro-punk noise pop. And while sometimes we forget just how much we love MxBx, it generally only takes about ten seconds to remind us just why we love them so much (and boy, can Melt-Banana pack a LOT into ten seconds!), and to get us listening to them obsessively all over again. We flipped over their most recent full length Fetch, in 2013, which found the group paired down to a duo, but the tracks collected here on this singles collection, represents the band arguably at their zenith, gathering up some of our favorite MxBx jams EVER, all the tracks from comps, EPs and split singles, from the years 2000-2009, including their 8" split with Three Studies For A Crucifixion, their split 7" with Dynamite Anna And The Bone Machine, their split 7" with Big D And The Kids Table, their 666 6", their split 7" with The Locust, their split single with Daemien Frost, their Initial T 7", their split 7" with Narcosis, their split 10" with Chung, their split 5" with Fantomas, their split mini CD with Fatday, their split single with Young Widows and finally, their Ai No Uta 5" single. Whew! And amongst those twenty nine tracks lurk a few covers, including Melt-Banana taking on the Damned's "Love Song", Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge", and even more strangely, "Monkey Man", originally by Toots & The Maytals!And while Melt-Banana don't need to resort to covers to impress us, those covers are pretty fucking mind blowing. They don't really fuck with "Love Song", other than speeding it up to a dizzying blur, and replacing Dave Vanian's gothic croon with Yasuko Onuki's distinctive hyper active high pitched chirp as well as adding some cool electronic glitchery, and the Toots & The Maytals song is a blast, hearing Melt-Banana's hyperactive take on reggae, and the way they fuse it to their own frenzied punk pop buzz. The Devo track, of course you know MxBx will do it right.The rest of the comp is sonically all over the map, the band mixing totally freaked out experimental weirdness to lightning speed J-Pop turned noise punk, and engaging in some extended WTF noisescaping, as well as coming up with short sharp blasts of perfect chipmunk punk, some of the tracks are murky and blown out, others are glistening and transcendent, the sound lurching wildly and veering constantly from sound to sound, total head spinning ADD radness, that in other hands might be unbearably schizophrenic, but MxBx have such an effortless mastery of melody and texture, that even the most furious and blasting chunk of noisiness will get its hooks into you and never let go. We're reminded a little of the Toy Dolls too, who basically took super catchy poppy punk, cranked it way up, added helium vox, and blasted out jittery, caffeinated, pogo punk that we still love like crazy to this day. So imagine a what-the-fuck, avant garde, Japanese psychedelic noise punk Toy Dolls, and you might be getting close. But really, NOBODY sounds like Melt-Banana, and no one ever will. And no one ever could.
MPEG Stream: "Dog In Lost"
MPEG Stream: "Creeps In A White Cake"
MPEG Stream: "Steel Me Lust"
MPEG Stream: "Uncontrollable Urge"
AKTOR Paranoia (High Roller/Ektro) cd 14.98
Oh boy, the Aktor full-length is here!! We've been eagerly awaiting this ever since the 7" single Aktor teased us with in 2013. How could we not be super stoked? It's a team-up of a couple big aQ faves - you've got Jussi and Tomi from Finnish hypnorock weirdos Circle and associated 'NWOFHM' bands in cahoots with metal master Chris "Professor" Black of Dawnbringer/High Spirits fame, whoa. The Circle guys do the heavily pulsing, ridiculously synth-laden music, while Professor Black handles the vocals in his inimitable melodic and earnest style. It's metal, sorta, or hard rock at least, though we're sorta surprised German traditional metal label High Roller were the ones to release it (probably, they did 'cause High Spirits are on High Roller). It's just so quirkily POPPY, and sometimes strangely moody and non-metallic too - like, just check out the dissonant synth-funk fusion sounds slathered all over the track "Where Is Home", combined also with metal gallops and depressive sci-fi lyrics... WTF??? We wonder what High Roller thought when they heard that. Maybe it's sorta Voivod-y (circa Angel Rat or The Outer Limits), and of course, as with the preceding "I Am The Psychic Wars" single, Blue Oyster Cult is an obvious big influence - but as much '80s cheezoid synthesizer overload BoC as '70s black & white psychedelic BoC. We're talking Club Ninja, here. Club Ninja with Chick Corea sitting in, possibly. Yeah, and Club Ninja is nobody's idea of a great, or even good, BoC album, is it? Yet, it can be a guilty/ironic pleasure for sure (Allan owns a copy, and is gonna spin it right after finishing this review), and so is Aktor... especially since Aktor bring in their own strange slant, due to the proggy Circle-factor, and the natural sincerity of Professor Black's emotive vocal delivery, making for a delirious dose of urgently, angularly rocking WTF? poppiness, living up to the cool album art of melting skulls and floating eyeballs, with lyrics that are cryptically mystical and/or psychological, it seems, having sickness, mental and otherwise, as a frequent theme. They titled it Paranoia for a reason. Yet, ultimately, the music is bright and uplifting - the "motivational montage" vibe common to both High Spirits and the Falcon (Ex-Circle) album is in full effect. Fans of either should definitely check this out, especially if you're also into Steel Mammoth or other Circle "NWOFHM" side projects. We'd say, expectations are met, but also confounded and confused! There are probably a myriad ways this collab could have gone, and we could imagine one a little less campy in some respects... nah, maybe not!
MPEG Stream: "Too Young To Die"
MPEG Stream: "Six Silver Suns"
MPEG Stream: "Where Is Home"
ALDINUCCI, GIULIO Spazio Sacro (standard version) (Time Released Sound) cd 14.98
Time Released Sound remain one of our favorite labels, a local boutique imprint that never fails to surprise and impress with every release, each one delightfully unique, from the over the top handmade packaging, to the mysterious abstract ambience and pastoral electronic alchemy that lurks within. And while at this point, there is definitely a TRS 'sound', one that we, and apparently lots of you, can't seem to get enough of, the music is surprisingly diverse. Some are subtle and sublime, hushed and dreamlike, others are more abstract, more experimental and yet somehow manage to retain much of the blurred beauty of their less obtuse compatriots. And while we've yet to dislike a single release, we do tend to lean more toward, perhaps not surprisingly, the weirder release, the the grittier, noisier forays into hazy, druggy drift, the fractured sonic collages that seem to smear before our very ears, the looped, and stuttery, wooziness that transports us to some prismatic, fractured otherworld. Which is precisely the case with Spazio Sacro, the first we've heard from audio alchemist Giulio Aldinucci, who has collected a series of field recordings sourced from sacred locations, and then used these skeletal frameworks for stunning dronescapes, and lush layered sonic swells, cinematic almost Arvo Part sounding choral shimmer, and more minimal, droning drift. The field recordings lend a strange vibe to these recordings, almost as if the music was captured in a similar fashion, wandering through the city, the thrum and clatter of passersby, cars, and shops, when all of a sudden some huge colored cloud of sound, comes whirling from above, wrapping itself around streetlights like some alien fog, the sound organic and alien all at once. the more hushed pieces not that far removed from the moody minimalism of Stars Of The Lid, the addition of strange rhythmic sputters, and fractured skitters, brings to mind the turntablescapes of Philip Jeck. It's a truly haunting landscape of sound, gauzy and indistinct, softly pulsing and strangely granular, as of whatever bonds holding these songs together is truly tenuous, and as such, songs don't start and stop as much as bleed into each other, crumbling into nothingness, only to slowly surface in another form, that form in constant flux, billowing and ethereal, dense and ominous, whispery and serene, all the while, the artifacts of life, the sonic detritus of everyday life, lay beneath these undulating swells of chordal thrum, of tranquil mesmer, of haunting, harrowing loveliness. This just might be our favorite TRS release yet. As always, there are two different versions, the deluxe, which in this case is limited to just 75 copies, and comes in a hardback book style cover, wrapped in a fabric shroud, with a 3D collaged landscape inside, made from pages from an ancient Italian book, 150 year old hand written musical scores and mysterious engravings, along with a vintage religious medallion. And as always, there's a slightly less limited, significantly more affordable, standard version, limited to 150 copies, housed in the usual swank TRS style digipak. Right now, we're just listing the regular one, 'cause TRS brought those by already, while we're still waiting on the deluxe - which should be here soon, probably the hand-assembly is slowing things down... no word on the price for those, either (they're usually around $45, or more). But if you want one, let us know, and we'll find out / get them soon and let YOU know...
MPEG Stream: "The Hermit"
MPEG Stream: "Sator"
BRIGHTER DEATH NOW With Promises Of Death (Familjegraven) lp 29.00
NOW ON VINYL!!!The first new recordings from Brighter Death Now in how many years? The monstrous collection Very Little Fun tracked material up until 2005, but wasn't released until 2011; so it was probably 2007 when BDN put out the blacknoise assault 1890. Brighter Death Now, of course, is the solo black-ambient / death-industrial project of Roger Karmanik, the founder of the seminal imprint Cold Meat Industries. Karmanik closed down CMI in late 2013 / early 2014 as he was suffering mentally and physically from the drain of running the label. The terminus of the label, however, brought focus back on his own work which had been dormant for so long. By the end of 2014, Karmanik had fully immersed himself within the shroud of Brighter Death Now, completing this album and announcing the birth of his new label Familjegraven whose sole purpose is to release his own projects, including rarities, reissues, and new recordings. With Promises Of Death begins with a burst of power electronics might and fury of Swedish / English sloganeering blurting above a vertiginous torrent of thrummed black noise and deafening reverberation. It's somewhat atypical for BDN to encroach into the territories of Con-Dom or Grey Wolves, as is the locomotive noise-futurism of "Hate Is For Beginners." The raw-nerve intensity of poorly grounded electronics cycling a diabolical hum collapses amidst the signature BDN collages of true crime / confessional dialogue buried deeply in the mix; and by the end of the album, Karmanik has slowly shifted to those engulfing shadows and fear-mongering orchestrations of coal-black monotone. It's all so deliciously morose, this Brighter Death Now.
MPEG Stream: "Promises Of Death"
MPEG Stream: "The Cover-Up"
MPEG Stream: "In The Shadow Of Death"
CATHEDRAL Forest Of Equilibrium (Earache) 2lp 17.98
Ok, raise your hands, everybody into Electric Wizard and Moss and Sleep and Reverend Bizarre and Om and, uh, Solar Anus, do you all have a copy of Cathedral's 1991 debut album Forest Of Equilibrium in your doom collection?? If not, total doom-foul. You must rectify that immediately, we decree. And you're in luck if you want it on vinyl, 'cause Earache has just pressed lps of it for the first time, we believe, since 1991. And, it comes with a bonus 12", the four song Soul Sacrifice ep from '92, making for a double lp package. But you'll have to act fast, 'cause we only have a few at this price - we CAN get more, probably, but they'll be more like $30 each. These are green colored ones, by the way.Now, as we've said before, British band Cathedral's debut was one of the saddest, heaviest slabs of doom ever heard, magically melding slowed-down Sabbath riffage, depressed prog-folk flutes, and ex-Napalm Death throat Lee Dorrian's gravelly vocals. It belongs in any doom metal top 20, maybe top 10, we would argue. And the band never made a better record, though Soul Sacrifice was also pretty fine.From the morose, molasses-slow strains of album's opening, the acoustic guitar and flute intro entitled "Picture Of Beauty And Innocence" that leads into the majestically crushing "Commiserating The Celebration", the unique quality of Forest Of Equilibrium's take on classic, epic doom metal is evident. Early Cathedral's gruff gothic exhalations and chugging downtuned doomic riffs is something quite special to behold, preferably sitting on a pillow or lying prone on the floor, perhaps wreathed in pot smoke, directly in front of a very loud set of speakers. There's something warm-blanket soothing about it, the utter sobbing misery expressed somehow comforting. These guys never made a secret of their heavy progressive, proto metal, psychedelic '70s influences (proudly listing obscure bands known only to bearded record collectors and aging hippies in their cd booklets' thanks lists at great length) but unlike Witchcraft, for instance, Cathedral didn't attempt to emulate those bands exactly, rather they incorporated certain elements of '70s prog (like the occasional flute!) into their much heavier-than-thou Sabbath/Candlemass derived sludge metal, going to an epic extreme (at the time) hitherto unmatched of sheer glacial-paced melancholia. Remember, frontman Lee Dorrian's former band Napalm Death was one of the FASTEST bands ever, so his next band Cathedral had to be the SLOWEST, the equivalent of grindcore at 16rpm. With of course ultra-long songs (the first track clocking in at over 11 minutes). The Soul Sacrifice ep did see the band speeding up a bit, and Lee letting loose with a few Ozzy-derived "All right!" exclamations, which led eventually to the slightly too much tongue in cheek let's boogie '70s kitsch stoner rock that characterized the middle period of their long career. But never fear, that came later, Forest Of Equilibrium is deadly serious, utterly doomed and despairing. And oh so beautiful.Regarding the Soul Sacrifice ep, it includes an extended version of the title track, also on Forest, plus three others: "Autumn Twilight", "Frozen Rapture", and "Golden Blood (Flooding)", all of which could have fit in perfectly well on the album itself style-wise, though the production is a bit different sounding.
MPEG Stream: "Ebony Tears"
MPEG Stream: "Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain"
MPEG Stream: "Golden Blood (Flooding)"
CLASSICAL, THE Diptych (standard version) (Time Sensitive Materials) cd 14.98
The Classical's Diptych is the first release on Time Sensitive Materials, an imprint/offshoot of beloved local experimental electronic label Time Released Sound, and it's easy to see why this didn't come out on TRS, cuz unlike the drifty ambience and hushed pastoral dronescapes that define most of the label's releases, this chunk of abstract, experimental, jazzy noise rock / psych jazz / post punk / swamp pop weirdness would have stuck out like a sore thumb. But it's easy to see that a sonic sore thumb is precisely what vocalist / songwriter Juliet Gordon and avant jazz drummer Britt Ciampa were going for, whipping up a din unlike anything you've heard from Time Released Sound, and very likely anywhere else. The label makes comparisons to Nico, The Birthday Party, Scott Walker, John Barry, all of which definitely seem to be present, but there's a distinctly indie rock vibe too, with much of the record sounding to us like a way more avant grade PJ Harvey, with a drummer, who occasionally drives the proceedings, but just as often veers off wildly into tripped out rhythmic tangents. The sound is gloriously fractured, and flits from moody brood, to lush, lustrous poppiness, to almost classic sounding torch songsmithery, and that's just the first track. Track two, "Shovel & Bevel" is the 'single' (there's even a video), and emblematic of the duo's willful difficult sonic disposition, it might be the weirdest of the bunch, the drums in constant chaos, the vocals haunting and weird, the song pocked with dense swirls of strings, soaring symphonic blurts, there's some processed slowed down vocals, the vibe is bombastic, like a damaged theme to some James Bond movie that was never released one second, and then some pissed off jazz diva dueling with a wildly drumming dervish the next, with a finale that almost sounds like Bernard Hermann. It's tough to pin down the Classical, but that's probably the point, and precisely what makes this record, and the group's sound so compelling. The rest of the record never really resting in one place, stretches of lazy, languid, jazzy crooning, bleeds into weird blown out noise jazz, if you can imagine Brian Chippendale from Lightning Bolt or Zach Hill from Hella teaming up with PJ Harvey, you might be getting close, but the closer you get, the more the Classical seem hell bent on tripping you up. The sound is definitely reminiscent of some of our favorite musical eras past, but instead of sounding retro, they sound like a band out of time, one whose sound and very sonic make up, was somehow damaged during its transit to the present, and that delightful damage is as mesmerizing as every perfect little melody, sweetly crooned couplet and gorgeous baroque pop-ism, and while that twisted mix might make the Classical a difficult musical pill to swallow for some, it just makes us dig it all the more. Once again, you can nab one of two versions, the over the top, somewhat pricey (but well worth it) deluxe version, limited to just 65 copies, is housed in a hardcover book, adorned with clock parts on the outside, while the inside is decorated with a collage of images featuring antique engravings of Greek and Roman statuary, modified with gears and springs and other horological workings, the result very steampunk-ish. There's also a standard version, limited to 150 copies and housed in a full color digipak.
MPEG Stream: "The Blue Room"
MPEG Stream: "Shovel & Bevel"
MPEG Stream: "Byzantine Tango"
CORTINI, ALESSANDRO Forse 3 (Important Records) 2lp 37.00
The final entry in a trilogy of electronic works from Alessandro Cortini, who has emerged from Nine Inch Nails in recent years as a textually inclined ambient composer of considerable aplomb. Along with the other two chapters in this series, he also produced a highly acclaimed album for Hospital Productions entitled Sonno late in 2014 (which we made a Record Of The Week, in fact). Partial to reductivist systems, Cortini scored and performed these pieces on a Buchla Music Easel, one of the few that made it into existence. The Buchla synths are equal parts works of art, conceptual puzzles, and technical pieces of electronics, requiring the user employ a considerable amount of creativity to get the thing work. Of course, anybody can plug in the patches and squiggle around the various touch pads and knobs of a Buchla synth; but to get the tool to acquiesce to a particular aesthetic is noteworthy. Cortini imparts a majestic if subtle drama to this album as he filters and effects the simple ambient melodic phrases that repeat, build, and collapse through the various pieces. These melodies are deceptively simple, finding comparisons to some of the darker moments from Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works II or perhaps those girding structures of Tim Hecker's work. He subtly shifts the filters, bringing noise, tension, and dynamics into these each of these pieces that evolve into a moody, elegant, and grandiose collection. Limited to 500 copies.
MPEG Stream: "Rimasta"
MPEG Stream: "Senza Aria (2014)"
DR. OCTAGON Dr. Octagonecologyst (Geffen) 2lp 41.00
OMG! Kind of an essential vinyl reissue here, folks, if you don't already have a copy. This version came out last year via Geffen but we never could get enough to list, now it's been repressed again or something, so we have a few this week. Our original review of this, way back when, proclaimed it to be the best hiphop record of 1996 (indeed it was!) but didn't say a whole lot else, such was the brevity of our reviews back then before the aQ "List" really got going. Back then the vinyl only cost $12.98, times they have a'changed, eh? But, this edition does boast a special "lenticular" 3-D cover, which is cool, plus it's got that great Pushead artwork to begin with. And, this record is truly an ALL-TIME fave. Seriously, we could/should/would go on and on for pages and pages about how rad this weird-ass Kool Keith / Dan "The Automator" Nakamura project is, but you probably already know all about it and have loved it for years, right?? If not, check yourself, we mean, check out the sound samples, you've missed a slice of demented genius, full of eerie beats and non sequitur skits... DJ Q-Bert supplies the scratching, Kool Keith's lyrics are sheer bizarre brilliance (his surreal sci-fi gynecologist Dr. Octagon persona is the best thing he's ever come up with, probably) and that's matched by the music. A classic, no argument, nuff said, right?
MPEG Stream: "3000"
MPEG Stream: "Earth People"
MPEG Stream: "Blue Flowers"
FUNEREAL PRESENCE The Archer Takes Aim (Ajna Offensive) cd 9.98
Gliding downward from the shadow-clad cathedral spires comes this debut full length (four long songs) of hellish occult black metal, all swirling with ghostly echoes & supernatural hypnosis! Funereal Presence is the impressive solo project of one Bestial Devotion, otherwise known as the pummeler of stretched flesh (aka the drummer) of aQ faves Negative Plane, and indeed the sound here is not miles away from those purveyors of the most twisting of unholy sermons. Like Negative Plane, Funereal Presence's sound is draped in an opaque veil of echoey reverb and mind altering riffs that seem to contort & writhe as if with some restless lustful life all their own. It's a sound that is as cavernous as it is suffocating, like unholy patrons convulsing lewdly in some musty Satanic church, the rotting muted colors that shine through the pallid stained glass illuminating their thrusts with an eerie serenity! There's even a bit of pipe organ to truly complete the affect. But while Funereal Presence do indeed share that aura of demented religious zealotry and dimly lit, dusty, blood stained church pews as Negative Plane, the sound here is also altogether more, for lack of a better word, old school! Taking as much influence from early Slayer & Mercyful Fate as '90s black metal. Altogether a rousingly spiteful & ominous affair! And certainly recommended for those who like their metal ugly, epic, atmospheric & fist pumping all at once.
MPEG Stream: "The Tower Falls"
MPEG Stream: "The Archer Takes Aim"
FUTURE OLD PEOPLE ARE WIZARDS Faux Paw (Zeal) lp 16.98
Future Old People Are Wizards, eh? We don't have a problem with the band name, it's kind of interesting, but wish they hadn't used a phonetic pronunciation of the acronym for their name as the title of this disc. FOPAW = "Faux Paw". Meaning what? Seems a little silly. Ah well, we forgive 'em, they're Belgian (mmmm, beer). Also, whatever, the music is way cool, Future Old People Are Wizards being a sort of alternative/stoner rock band, grungy and psychedelic and plenty melodic, with lots and lots of spacey synth swirling around the distorted guitars. It's heavy and rockin' one moment, trippy and Beatles-esque the next. The title of instrumental track "Eastern Sabbath" is also pretty overt in describing what that one sounds like, eh. The FOPAW equation doesn't really include any utterly original elements, yet it's a particular, precise blend of styles/sounds you don't hear together everyday, all good stuff, and it works! They've got it dialed in on this debut, definitely. Their label references both Tangerine Dream and Kyuss with regards to FOPAW's sound, yeah we hear that, Eno and Zep too, or try UFOmammut meets Queens Of The Stone Age. Another: imagine Aussie synth lords The Night Terrors teamed up with old aQ stoner-psych-pop faves Elope from Sweden, perhaps? Powerful wall-of-fuzz riff repetition, shoegazing melody, drifting dreaminess (particularly on the super-synthed-out final epic track "Cotton Sheep")... FOPAW do it all, and do it well, making this pretty hard for us to resist, not that we're trying, why would we? Recommended rock!
MPEG Stream: "Teenage Hospital"
MPEG Stream: "Little Big One"
MPEG Stream: "Somewhere"
ILLUMININE #1 (Zeal) lp 16.98
We talk a lot about good "going to sleep music", but this lovely album, while it would work just fine for that, might be even better suited as good "waking up music". Truly, this Belgian ensemble's ambient-chamber music, gently glistening and glimmering, sounds like it, itself, is waking up. The dawning of a new day, gentle sonic rays of sunshine, all that sort of thing - though admittedly, one could imagine the onset of dusk as well, drifting off along to the quietly melodic instrumentation (guitar, piano, cello, double bass, organ, vibraphone, violin, horns, xylophone...), soothingly played, accompanied by even more abstract sounds - hushed drones, subtle pulsations, and synthesized electronics like whooshing, softly blowing wind. The nine named tracks on this album are interspersed with five additional "Interludes", those just slightly more ambient in nature, though it's not as if you need 'em in order to catch your breath or anything, the whole album is quite relaxed. Basically, Illuminine's full-length debut is a kind of quasi-classical take on the "Pop Ambient" thing, via instrumental post rock, for fans of bands like Sigur Ros (and in fact, this was recorded in Sigur Ros' studio, in Iceland, by their own engineer), also for fans of similarly ambient-ish, strings-and-piano-and-electronics graced releases on labels like Miasmah and, especially, Time Released Sound.
MPEG Stream: "Dualisms"
MPEG Stream: "Elegy"
MPEG Stream: "Melancholia"
KATE, MARC File #08 (Computer Tapes) cd-r 4.98
Following the new wave / new romantic bombast of his debut album as Never Knows in 2014, former aQ-starlet Marc Kate returns with a mostly different album for Chris Dixon's homespun Computer Tapes imprint. Gone are the Numan / Gahan electro-ballad croons, replaced with billowing crescendos of oceanic ambient passages saturated in pink noise and shoegazed distortion. We say that it's mostly different in that Kate's penchant for dark hues and washed out melody remain consistent in both sets of recordings. Here we have a well-conceived / well-executed hybrid of vintage synth-drone transcendence and the digital rupturing of these placid surfaces through a soft-focus yet molten churn of dissonance, fuzz, and overdrive. The first couple of tracks rumble from the netherworlds with the impressionistic harmonic phrases lifting off from a bass-heavy underbelly. The central tracks take up brighter tones of unfurling ambient swells that announce a more heavenly diction to Kate's vocabulary, shifting references from the more industrial slabs of Troum or Tim Hecker toward the celestial electronics of Klaus Schulze or Vangelis; Kate then gracefully turns towards an iced-vein slurry of lugubrious drone and shoegazing noise. Very well done. Only 50 of these were pressed up, so these won't be around for long.
MPEG Stream: "...with no obvious agent"
MPEG Stream: "The Empires No Close"
MPEG Stream: "All Prophets. All Horrors."
KINGS DESTROY s/t (War Crime) cd 10.98
Pop quiz: quick, name a doom metal band from a major East Coast city, formed by members of various hardcore punk bands... Magic Circle? Well, those aQ-fave Bostonians would be one answer, sure. But, there's also NYC's Kings Destroy, who here unleash their third album - the first we've had the pleasure of reviewing, though we liked their previous two as well. But by virtue of being self-titled, we wonder if this the band is saying that THIS is the one to start with, anyway? Could be, as self-titling a record that's not in fact your debut is often a way of making a statement, and yeah maybe Kings Destroy HAVE upped the ante with this one, there is just something about it... It sure sounds good, being heavy as heck (Sanford Parker production never fails) and seriously rockin', with plenty of moody moves too. Furthermore, these songs display a flair for lyrics let's say a bit out of the ordinary for your typical doom metal outfit - ferinstance, "Mr. O" appears to be about baseball player Reggie Jackson, proving that Puig Destroyer aren't the only metallers way into the national pastime. Such interests don't stop Kings Destroy from dooming it up sufficiently; they do majestic and morose with aplomb, and bring down the riff-hammer with abundant glee. The vocals are versatile; occasionally "extreme" (distorted and screaming on the ambient-to-apocalyptic album-ender "Time For War") but mostly melodic, sorta reminding us of Chris Black of Dawnbringer. And opening track "Smokey Robinson" (more cryptic/interesting/unusual lyrics there) really sounds like it could be from the last Dawnbringer, with a dash of In The Meantime-era Helmet to it too. The aforementioned "Mr. O" has more of a Trouble-like vibe, with bluesy leads and a weary vocal presence worthy of Eric Wagner. Indeed, of the 'classic' doom acts we'd assume are the biggest influences on Kings Destroy, Trouble would be top of the list, nothing wrong with that! So, time will tell, but the self-titling seems not mere hubris, and we're beginning to think more hardcore musicians should form traditional doom metal bands...
MPEG Stream: "Smokey Robinson"
MPEG Stream: "Mr. O"
MPEG Stream: "Mythomania"
KOBAN Vide (Weyrd Son Records) lp 17.98
This fuzzed out darkness from the hitherto unknown Vancouver gloom-goth duo Koban comes to us via the Belgian imprint Weyrd Son, who also released the record from San Franciscan outfit All Your Sisters operating in the same circles of black-leather clad goth-punkiness. In Koban, Brittany West and Samuel Buss alternate in the delivery of the blank stare monotone incantations that in turn slip between English and French. West, in particular, can turn the guttural syllables from her French delivery into something far more snarling than the lyrical dejection alludes to. All of this dourness is suitably applied to Buss' chorus/flange guitar riffs that come from the Daniel Ash / Christian Death songbook along with the gloomy basslines courtesy of West and the Dr. Avalanche set-up of electronics and drum machines. Yup, another excellent recapitulation of those doom-punk merchants of the past. Think Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, X-Mal Deutschland, and the Sisters Of Mercy. Limited to just 300 copies.
MPEG Stream: "Rappeler"
MPEG Stream: "Detacher Et Deguiser"
MPEG Stream: "Delirium"
MAMALEEK Via Dolorosa (Flenser) lp 17.98
Full length number five from these two brothers who traffic in twisted, noisy, psychedelic WTF black metal weirdness, and who create what is essentially a new sound with every record, having started life making a sort of spaced out shoegazey psychedelic black metal, gradually growing weirder and weirder, finally arriving at Via Dolorosa - which is somehow even weirder, even just one song in, a super raw, extremely blown out post black metal that sounds more like some sort of noisy post punk, what sounds like slide guitars, the vocals howled and gruff, the drums super lo-fi, and practice space sounding, in fact, like much of The Flenser's output, there's really nothing here that would make you think this band was even remotely black metal, instead, it's a killer slab of noisy, punky, poppiness, and yeah, it's pretty poppy, but we're only two minutes into the first song at this point, cuz soon, all the noisiness is peeled back, leaving just a low slung bass line, a kick drum pulse, some clean guitar strum, then some creepy sampled voices, a sprawling tranced out minimal mesmer that's as unlikely as the first half of the song, just on the other end of the sonic spectrum. And really, by now, if you're buying a record on The Flenser, and expecting buzzing black metal, there's at least a 50 percent chance you'll be extremely disappointed. But then Flenser seems to have been distancing themselves from straight up BM, and they couldn't have gotten further away from it than with this. The second track is all jazzy, minus the distorted vokills, and noisy lo-fi drums, it's smooth and shimmery and skittery, a twisted juxtaposition, that will for sure have metalheads scratching their chins. And it doesn't get any easier from there on out, but it continues to get cooler and weirder, gorgeous blasts of hazy, melodic drone-noise, slow building shimmers, tripped out down tempo trip hop, rife with woozy backwards swells and lush layers chordal thrum, wedded to more of those howled vox, weird blackened dubbiness, lots of jazziness popping up throughout, hazy detuned guitar shimmers, murky pitch shifted crooning, doomy, melty, warped sounding slo-mo creeps, piano laced, jangly dream pop, accordions and spidery guitars, over loping post rock rhythms and bookended by some psychedelic hard panned groovy skitter, and finally a haunting, bombastic death march, with huge rhythmic pounds, over distant vocal murmurs, and delicate crystalline guitar filigree. Such a weird record, but like their other albums, this is not really even metal, and most metalheads will likely be bummed/pissed, but if you dig warped experimental heaviness, avant blackened doom-jazz and outsider WTF post-black metal weirdness, this is most definitely for you.
MPEG Stream: "1"
MPEG Stream: "2"
MPEG Stream: "4"
MPEG Stream: "9"
MASTERY Valis (The Flenser) lp 17.98
We made this album a Record Of The Week a few months ago, it sold fast and had to be repressed, which they did, with alternate, red instead of blue cover art. Collect 'em all! No, but if you missed it before, don't miss it now...It's been a really long wait, but it's finally here, the debut full length from SF one man black metal horde Mastery. After a collection of demos on Andee's tUMULt label, and splits with Palace of Worms and Skullflower, we now have Valis, which, if anything, has pushed an already confusional sound further into the realms of total WTF? unreality. That tUMULt demo collection was impossibly next level, and Valis is definitely a progression, into something twisted and cosmic, less songs as much as sprawling pieces, partially (perhaps wholly?) improvised, riff after riff after riff, the 18 minute opener boasting what has to be a hundred different riffs, some buzzy and black, others atonal and Greg Ginn-ish, all wound around each other in furious tangles, croaked vokills and wild drumming only adding to the cacophony, the end result almost like multiple black metal bands playing at once, but somehow orchestrated into something strangely cohesive, brutal and punishing, but also mesmerizing and trancelike, a prismatic sonic blur, undulating wildly, occasionally coalescing into proper blast and buzz, but more often splintering into wild gouts of blacknoize or arcing sheets of black psych freakout. It definitely might be too much for the meat and potatoes metalheads out there. This is most definitely AVANT, whether it's the sudden intrusion of acoustic guitar above simple snare roll, or the swirling kosmische interludes, the blasts of head spinning squiggly shred, or the slippery melodies, that sound like multiple slide guitars run through a battery of busted distortion pedals, the lurching, lumbering doom that oozes like the instruments are melting as they're being played, wild bursts of distorted crumble or the frantic Bernard Hermann like intro to the record, or just the sheer fury and velocity of some of the black buzz here, making other black metal bands sound like they're trudging through tar... Valis is less like black metal and more like a constellation of sonic smears and brutal blurs, all layered into one of the strangest, most challenging, and definitely one of the most deliriously demented outsider/experimental/avant black metal records EVER. Killer cover art too.
MPEG Stream: "S.T.A.R.S.E.E.K.E.R."
MPEG Stream: "V.A.L.I.S.V.E.S.S.E.L."
METZ II (Sub Pop) lp 19.98
Full length number two from these Canadian noise rockers, creatively titled II, finds these aQ faves continuing to pound and howl with the best of them. Channeling everything we loved about the meanest, noisiest of our favorite nineties outfits, and sneaking some sick melodies whenever the opportunity presents itself, which to be honest, is hardly ever, all the tracks here dense and driving and distorted, but that doesn't keep them from cramming 'em in anyway. Which transforms knuckle dragging, pigfuck churn into something strangely catchy, and seriously headbangable. Sitting comfortably between Mudhoney, Pissed Jeans and Jesus Lizard, but embracing an unlikely poppiness even more than they did on the debut. The tracks swing wildly from blown out bass buzzing brutality, to tranced out cyclical hypno-rock, to weirdly hooky psychedelic garage punk crunch. A raw, in-the-red production only adds to the goodness, the reverb drenched vocals manage to straddle the line between gloomy, growly croon, and throat shredding bellow, all driven by some seriously transcendent drum pummel. And like the best records of this ilk, the sound on its own is enough to get our noise rock juices flowing, but repeated listens reveal some surprising songcraft, that again borrows from the nineties, that stripped of all its crumbling crunch and chaotic bluster, wouldn't be out of place on a Sebadoh or Pavement record. So just imagine your favorite track by one of those bands, revved WAY the fuck up, doused in distortion, the swagger and swing cranked all the way up, the sound bloody, sweaty and bruised, wasted and belligerent, which if you're anything like us, that's a noise rock recipe for your new favorite record.
MPEG Stream: "Acetate"
MPEG Stream: "The Swimmer"
MPEG Stream: "Spit You Out"
MOONDOG The Viking Of Sixth Avenue (Honest Jons) 2lp 26.00
THIS BIG AQ FAVE, NOW REPRESSED ON VINYL AND AVAILABLE AGAIN!!In our minds, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century was a man with a long white beard and a Viking helmet on his head - Louis Hardin (aka Moondog). Whether it was how he incorporated field recordings into his compositions, unleashed riveting vocal cannons or created confusional worlds of percussion that were light-years ahead of their time, he had such a singular touch and far reaching vision, it's no surprise he's an all time AQ favorite!While we love so many avant composers of the 20th century, there tends to be an undeniable academic angle to their work which sometimes leaves us a bit cold. Moondog on the other hand employed such a playful approach to his work. Whether he was building his own instruments, creating new scales, experimenting with field recordings, inserting fun wordplay into otherwise austere pieces, you get this amazing sense of playfulness, childlike wonder and a totally unique strangely sophisticated kind of joy. The outsider that he was, Moondog answered to no one. No movement, no school, no tradition. He took his love, appreciation and deep running knowledge of classical music, his poetic mind, and his free spirit and created sounds that were like nothing of its time. Losing his eyesight at an early age he began writing scores in Braille. Like most truly special artists, he spent much of his life in relative obscurity, he spent much of the 50's and 60's on New York street corners where he would sell his poems, record the sounds of daily life, and soak in all aspects of his atmosphere. Most New Yorkers just thought they were walking by some crazy homeless guy in a viking costume, they had no idea they were passing one of the most brilliant musical minds of the last century. Thanks to the help of some of his big fans like Janis Joplin, who covered All Is Loneliness on her first outing with Big Brother Holding Company, he got a record deal with Columbia and eventually recorded with the London Symphony, and then spent the last 20+ years of his life in Germany where a rich family supported him while he continued to make music, up until the time of his death. His influence runs so deep and continues to spread among the musical underground, but also slowly but surely permeates into mainstream music. There is talk of a tribute album coming soon, in the '90s many hip-hop and electronic producers sampled his works and many avant electronic folks were definitely influenced by his strange musicks, including Mr. Scruf, DJ Shadow and Aphex Twin. Antony and The Johnsons have been doing an amazing version of All is Loneliness in their live show, and you can hear echoes of Moondog's sounds in everyone from Rhys Chatham, to Jon Brion, to Steve Reich, to Philip Glass and even The Residents. The cost on this collection finally dropped down from a prohibitively steep import price so now we finally can list this and urge you to let these 36 songs introduce you to what will no doubt be a life long love affair with one of our favorite musical minds of all time!
MPEG Stream: "All Is Loneliness"
MPEG Stream: "Oo Debut"
MPEG Stream: "Oasis"
MPEG Stream: "Invocation"
MUSHY / MEDDICINE split (Weyrd Son Records) lp 17.98
Here, we get this electro-goth split that originally came out as a tiny edition cassette on the SixSixSixties imprint run by Meddicine's Monika Krol, now repressed in a just slightly bigger pressing on vinyl through Weyrd Son. Mushy is one of a couple of pseudonyms for Valentina Fanigliulo who may be Rome's answer to Zola Jesus. She may not have the operatic pipes of Zola Jesus, but she's a much better technician when it comes to crafting her ethereal, emotionally drained, coldwave arrangements for snowstorm synth and washed-out drum machine. Her former recordings of understated, 4AD-inspired gloomy dream pop made for some of the better contemporary recordings issued by Mannequin Records; and they are just as good here as anywhere else. Meddicine's scabbed Sheffield-style industrial hypnosis full of turgid ostinato and brain-disjointing sequences seems taylor made for the shambolic electronica that's been oozing from Not Not Fun over recent years.
MPEG Stream: MUSHY "(Let Me) Go Away"
MPEG Stream: MUSHY "My All Secrets"
MPEG Stream: MEDDICINE "Twilight"
NURSE WITH WOUND Lumb's Sister (United Jnana) cd 14.98
Back in 1990, Nurse With Wound, Current 93, and Sol Invictus issued a 3lp set of their works, all of which was suitably occult and suitably dark. By the middle of the decade, both C93 and Sol Invictus had reissued their own material on individual discs, but Steven Stapleton / Nurse With Wound never did until some 25 years later. As such, that boxset became quite a prize possession for NWW aficionados; and it was originally composed to be the soundtrack to a film by Chris Wallis, an occasional contributor to Nurse With Wound and Current 93 in the late '80s. The film itself had been notoriously unfinished for decades, with cans of film getting lost over the years; and when Wallis finally got around to completing a cut of the film, the original soundtrack was unused, instead Wallis picked over various bits from the Nurse With Wound catalog as the score. So, Lumb's Sister the Nurse With Wound album has nothing anymore to do with Lumb's Sister the film by Chris Wallis. Stapleton's response? "Aw, shucks." A quintessentially obscurant recording of quintessential Nurse With Wound strategies, Lumb's Sister laces eerie vocalizations that are often sped up conversations on tape machines amongst distended drones from various bowed metals, elongated vocal utterances, and stringed instruments that all amass into a bellowing darkly illumined thrum. Its closest companion in the Nurse With Wound catalogue would be the elegant piece of minimalism found on Soliloquy For Lilith and the Tibet / Stapleton drone-chant epic The Sadness Of Things. This cd version contains much more material than the original lp, also including Nurse With Wound's subtle variation of Coil's "How To Destroy Angels." As with anything that Stapleton touches, this is a work of genius.
MPEG Stream: "Finis Terra"
MPEG Stream: "The Church Of Esoteric Practices"
MPEG Stream: "How To Destroy Angels II"
OIL THIEF Obsolescence & Monality (Chondritic Sound) cassette 8.98
Holy fuck! This is one hell of a great album of wastoid electronics thumping with bad-ass techno and mired in noise fetish miserablism. If the strength of this album is any predictor of the future for Oil Thief, you should expect to see something on Blackest Ever Black, Downwards, Hospital, or even Modern Love; but for now the suitably industrially minded Chronditic Sound is home to this Oil Thief. Lee Landrey is the character behind this project, and we would not have expected work like this to come from one of the dudes in Wand - the ramshackle psyche-punk-pop outfit with plenty of overtures to what may be considered the Castle Face sound. Gloomy metallic synth chords ooze into leaden marches of frightening intensity thanks to the relentless drum machine pound and big-muff overdrive that crunches all of the electronics into a blinding rage. Landrey's sporadic use of his throat-mulching vocal delivery is one that owes considerable debt to Godflesh, furthering along all of any and all references to crushing nihilism. Such is the case for the eponymous lead track "The Beginning" and "Dirt & Humbug" whose dark techno workouts thunder with roiling noise of obliterated surfaces compounded with teeth chattering tremolo patterns. Then there are tracks such as "Death Sieve" and "Dead Finks Don't Listen" (great title, by the way) offer a suitably ominously droned-out design for blackened ambience and industrialized abstractions that serve to augment all of this barking punk drama for Wagnerian portent. Something we would have thought Prurient would be making when we first heard he were doing techno a couple years back; but with him applying considerable polish to make his damn fine albums, Oil Thief has seized on an aesthetic triangulation that seems unclaimed. Remarkable in more ways than one. It's unlikely that we'll be able to get restocked on this once these sell through, sorry to say.
MPEG Stream: "The Beginning"
MPEG Stream: "Drowner"
MPEG Stream: "Dirt & Humbug"
PRURIENT Frozen Niagara Falls (Profound Lore) 2cd 14.98
The ever-prolific Dom Fernow is back with another Prurient release (the 23rd we've reviewed, actually!!), and it seems the days of nonstop releases of pure harsh noise are long in his past. There was a time not too far back when 30 minutes of mic-against-amp feedback squall on limited release cassette was all you needed to be a noise all-star, but luckily for everyone it looks like we've moved past that. Fernow, in addition to the "whatever I'm listening to right now" vibe of Prurient, has been busy with, let's see, Vatican Shadow, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, Exploring Jezebel, and Cold Cave (probably a bunch more too).On Frozen Niagra Falls, Fernow has two cd's worth of space to explore everything he's been busy with for the past ten plus years of work, and it shows. He drifts and darts between bleak industrial soundscapes, the overblown amp-shattering noise of early Prurient, cheesy coldwave sawtooth synth leads, and pounding, overtly sexual Whitehouse worship. There's moments when Fernow lets a track or an idea really breathe and envelop, and there's some actual tranquility. In the liner notes, in fact, Fernow recommends you listen "at night while snow falls silently under street lights". But, this is still a Prurient album, and what kind of Prurient album would it be if it didn't have the occasional outburst of pent up hypersexual rage? Channeling the distorted, fucked up rhythms and lyrical themes of classic power electronics, Fernow makes you look up and listen, to forget the snow falling under the street lights and pay attention. Those moments quickly disappear into the albums frozen landscape, though, as this album is more brood then bludgeon. A huge fucking statement of an album, easily the best Prurient record thus far, and highly recommended for old fans and new.
MPEG Stream: "A Sorrow With A Braid"
MPEG Stream: "Shoulders of Summerstones"
MPEG Stream: "Frozen Niagra Falls (Portion Two)"
ROSE WINDOWS s/t (Sub Pop) lp 17.98
On this week's list we've got the sophomore efforts from two Sub Pop artists we like a lot, and along with Metz's II, we're digging the second album from these spaced out psychedelic hard rocking freak folks, whose sound has only gotten better the second time around. The opening track is so good it was tough to dig any deeper, the sound starting out like more recent Earth outings, sort of windswept and desert-y, all hazy, languorous twang and moody minor key shimmer, which is transformed when the vocals come in, into what sounds a bit like a more distorted, hard rocking Fleet Foxes, and then the song shifts again, blossoming into this harmonies psychedelic folk, all tangled little guitar figured, sweet harmonies, and lovely female vocals, the vibe is equal parts classic Southern rock, freak folk and bearded psych, and if that doesn't sound good to you for some reason, trust us, it does. And like on the first record, the band don't shy away from heaviness, launching into a weird seventies sounding groover, complete with Frampton style voice box, but when Rabia Shaheen Qazi steps up to the mic, her vocals turn the track into some cool swaggery hippy hard rock, sort of witchy, reminding us of groups like Ruby The Hatchet, Blood Ceremony, and Royal Thunder, but with way more of a classic rock vibe. Which is pretty much how the rest of the record unwinds, equal parts hippy folk, seventies psych, witchy hard rock, that definitely out-retros their debut, but it's a sound they seem to have grown into, and one that suits them even more, a fuzzy hard rocking blooze, that's still plenty psychedelic, occasionally doomy, but pretty goddamn great throughout.
MPEG Stream: "Bodhi Song"
MPEG Stream: "Glory, Glory"
MPEG Stream: "Blind"
SIGH Graveward (Candlelight) cd 14.98
It's kinda weird to call an over-the-top symphonic, genre-shifting black metal record predictable, but that's only because we're dealing with Japanese weirdos Sigh here. If you've listened to them before, you just KNOW that you're gonna get all manner of twists and unexpected turns in their labyrinths of songs. If you haven't listened before, well, this is a good of place to start as any, especially seeing as with each Sigh release, it seems they only up the unpredictability factor. There are parts that definitely bring the riff in a straightforward thrash or black metal way, but in classic Sigh fashion, those moments disappear just as quickly as they started and give way to more frenzied symphonic weirdness. Graveward never lets up for even a second to let you stop and think about the part you just heard. Maybe it sounds like we're talking shit but these are all the things that make this record worth hearing. It's weird, it's Sigh, what else is there to say? Check it out. If the sound samples aren't working, they will be soon, it's just that we're having trouble deciding which ones to make, they're all pretty equally ridiculous - we're trying to find the one that has this, like, campfire and harmonica western boogie part that's totally bizarre, hopefully we can figure out which one that was...
MPEG Stream: "Kaedit Nos Pestis"
MPEG Stream: "Graveward"
MPEG Stream: "The Tombfiller"
SUMAC The Deal (Sige) lp 26.00
From the ceaseless unresting mind of Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mamiffer, House Of Low Culture, Split Cranium, etc.) comes this all new project of blistering, suffocating post-sludge-noise. What is most immediately captivating about Sumac is how much more aggressive their music feels compared to Turner's previous projects. Sure, he's a man who has often dealt in heaviness, but The Deal is an altogether much more abrasive, frantic and confrontational affair - the guitars often channeling an altogether Godflesh-ian/Swans-ish degree of apocalyptian disdain - like skyscraper sized plates of metal scraping together, but obscured by mathy bouts of incomprehensible time signatures, propelled onward by some of the most furiously intricate drumming we've heard in quite some time. And that's to say nothing of the howled vocals, grotesque & anguished, bordering on the death metal. There are actually plenty of quiet moments technically speaking, but even those feel far from peaceful, serving instead to exacerbate the nauseous itchy dread-urgency that this record drips with. It's certainly not the easiest journey Mr. Turner's ever taken us on, but it's without a doubt one of the most fascinating & fulfilling. Recommended!
MPEG Stream: "Thorn In The Lion's Paw"
MPEG Stream: "The Deal"
V/A Framework 500 (Framework Editions) 3cd 45.00
Five years ago, the Framework radio series broadcast its 250th episode with a massive 4cd anthology of works by artists who had been regularly featured on the series. The motto for the show states that "Framework is a show consecrated to field recording and its use in composition. Field recording. Phonography. The art of sound hunting. Open your ears and listen." The host of Framework - Patrick McGinley (aka Murmer) - asked all of the contributing artists to that four cd set to contribute to another milestone for the 500th episode. And what we have here is another tome of sound ecology and obfuscated environmental texture all woven into composition through this impressive triple cd set. Here are some of the highlights of the 31 tracks to Framework 500...Long time aQ favorite/friend Loren Chasse layers melancholy chorales of bowed psalter over recordings of what very well could be the clamor of bells rattling from the tidal churn on a nocturnal harbor. Eamon Sprod (aka Tarab) presents a similarly oceanically-themed recording of crunched crustacean shells above a deep, distant roar. The dromedary groans followed by a sequence of squirting liquids on Peter Cusack's "Milking A Camel" are exactly that. According to Cusack, the resulting yogurt is wonderful. Hitoshi Kojo and Michael Northam pull an archival recording for their contribution as Kodama, here joined by Framework's Patrick McGinley on resonant metal objects in a watery cistern. On "Koln Fork," we get a rare track from Jonathan Coleclough, the once prolific dronologist whose been far too quiet in past six or seven years, with his contribution being a brightly hued burst of snowglint metals and drone-guitar mesmerism. Toy Bizarre offers a claustrophobic piece of insectoid buzz and bone-snapped textures that gives one of the most dynamic and abrasive tracks on the compilation. Both Thomas Tilly and our own Jim Haynes follow this more caustic aesthetic with industrial whirrs, piercing tone, and raw electrical crackling erupting through both of their tracks. All of the artwork was letterpressed into a nifty folio, making this a very limited edition.
MPEG Stream: LOREN CHASSE "Moonlight Over The Villages"
MPEG Stream: EAMON SPROD "Rock Pool: Blanket Bay"
MPEG Stream: THOMAS TILLY "Mycelial Path"
MPEG Stream: RICHARD GARET "Shaped Water"
WARM SODA Symbolic Dream (Castle Face) lp 15.98
Hooray! Warm Soda! We were largely captivated around here at aQ HQ by these local garage popsters previous opus Young & Reckless Hearts last year (in fact it appeared on this particular aQer's best of the year list!) and just a little over a year later we are gifted with another giddy dose of nostalgic, high energy pop songcraft, all endearing naivete and lovelorn starry eyed wonder, like the house band at the best coming-of-age middle school prom you never went to, clad in glittery cumberbunds & slightly too small tuxedos (but it a cool way). Equal parts garage rock, boogie woogie, classic powerpop, stuttering '70s punk & glam rock glitter stomp, Warm Soda recall uber-classics like The Buzzcocks, T. Rex, radio pop era Clash, Big Star, maybe even early Strokes?? - all while retaining a sound all their own, wrapped perfectly in a murky syrupy production - the vocals way up front with the tightly wound drumming & punchy guitar work serving the perfect backing. There's a sense of "simpler times" running through Warm Soda's music (even down to the classic American diner themed album cover) almost like wistful doo-wop/girl group songsmithery funneled through a wilder 1970s lens, the lyrics all yearning and lovestruck. In a way, they're sort of like if the TV show Happy Days was a band! Anyway, whichever ridiculous metaphor you choose to go with, it's probably best not to overthink rock music this simple, fun and pure. Just pop it on and feel great for half an hour. What better recommendation is there??
MPEG Stream: "I Wanna Know Her"
MPEG Stream: "Cryin' For A Love"
MPEG Stream: "Symbolic Dream"
WIRE, THE #376 June 2015 magazine 9.98
New issue of The Wire featuring a special section, "Deep Cover", all about artists indulging in aliases, pseudonyms and alter egos, discussing the phenomenon in techno, black metal, dub, and more. Nice cover design reflecting that theme. Also this issue, everything from South African jazz to Lead Belly to a Hanoi scene report... plus, all the usual reviews and charts and what not... oh, and Eugene Chadbourne is put to the Invisible Jukebox test.
YAMASUKI SINGERS, THE Le Monde Fabuleux Des ( Far Eastern Sunshine) cd 17.98
We listed a new vinyl version of this last week (currently on backorder, darn it) but at least also now here's a new cd edition, too...Finders Keepers did this a while back, ten years ago, but it's been gone for ages, so it's nice to have a new version in print. Here's what we've said before about this gem:Every time we've played this delicious reissue in the store, people have eagerly inquired, "Oooh, what's this?!" If you dig music that gleefully jumps boundaries and melts together genres with whimsical abandon (but NOT in the current irony-sodden, just-fuckin'-around fashion) - in this case, a cross-cultural funneling in on the sounds of French Ye Ye Girl pop, far-out Japanese psych and prog influences, some almost-Carpenters level sing-song-y glorious pop, and assorted other vintage Euro-funkiness - well then, Le Monde Fabuleux Des Yamasuki is for YOU!Apparently there was originally one album and two singles released under the name The Yamsuki Singers on the French label Biram back in 1971. Needless to say, they've been next to impossible to find for years. If you're eager to get the skinny on Yamasuki, the project's lively history is printed in English in the liner notes, but there's also an added bonus on the back page of the booklet. If your French comprehension is any good, you can find out how to do the dance moves - le salut, la joie, la peur, la grace, le combat, attaque (translation of this move's description: one assumes karate positions while shouting "caa ooh") and hara kiri! By today's standards, you might find some of the 'oriental' (ahem, Asian) elements downright corny (the first song begins with a gong, and songs are introduced by a black-belt judo master!), but the sheer exuberance of the performances sweeps away any possibility of scowling criticisms. The sticker on the front of the FK version we used to be able to get proclaimed "A fuzzed-out-educational-multi-cultural psych-rock-opera from 1971. Proto-psychedelic hip-hop with overweight drum beats and basslines!" Who's gonna argue with that?! Not us, we particularly appreciate the record label's use of the word "overweight". Yeah, we can hear what they're gettin' at - the rhythm section is pretty thumpin' and hefty - but it still made us giggle. Anyways, not to be super nit-picky but although this is indeed a conceptual album, after reading the liner notes we deduced that it's not so much a 'rock opera' per se, but more like a dance performance with lots of choral accompaniments. So who was behind all of this wonderful madness? Two French producer/composers, Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde... and various children's choirs singing in Japanese. Ultra bizarre, campy, freaky and outrageous (again, even by today's standards!), we've got a sneaking suspicion that Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks probably saw/heard Yamasuki 'cause there sure are some striking resemblances with their own deliriously fantastic Kimono My House album that came out a few years later in 1974. You might find it sorta Zappa-ish too. Heck, it even spawned a dance move, "The Yamasuki"! Oh yeah, and if the fifth song "AIEAOA" sounds oddly familiar, you might recognize it as a song covered by Bananarama. Apparently the gals heard a version recorded by a band from Zaire (!), and loved it so much that they covered the cover "Aie A Mwana" and made it their first single!
MPEG Stream: "Okawa"
MPEG Stream: "Aieaoa"
MPEG Stream: "Abana Bakana"
YEN POX Between The Horizon And The Abyss (Malignant Records) cd 11.98
A colossal record like this doesn't get made in a day, or even a year for that matter. It's actually been 15 years since Yen Pox has produced a new album. There was an excellent collaborative project the American industrial-ambient technicians did with the German pioneers Troum; and M.V. Hensley from Yen Pox has released a handful of albums under his moniker Blood Box. But, the last proper Yen Pox album, New Dark Age, arrived in the cold months of 2000. Not quite as slow in production as Giancarlo Toniutti, who took well over 20 years to issue a new solo album. But like Toniutti's immaculately conceived electro-acoustic wastelands, the records of Yen Pox are the stuff of epochal change, slowly revealing themselves through the dark veil between this world and another, or as the title implies between the horizon and the abyss. The scope of this work is suitably grandiose, following the template for the entire dark ambient genre that Yen Pox helped sculpt so many years ago alongside the likeminded projects Lustmord and Inade. The horror-laden drones that Yen Pox conceives are hardly static, as they spiral as if thrown from stable orbit by the all-consuming gravity of a black hole. The deep female vocal utterances are courtesy of the gothic siren Ruby Smith (aka Dark Muse) whose bellows and moans sporadically break through the dense clouds of Yen Pox' subterranean echo and reverb as the only ghosts of humanity to be found within this album. Bleak and heavy, to say the least.
MPEG Stream: "The Awakening"
MPEG Stream: "Cold Summer Sun"
MPEG Stream: "Tomorrow In Ruins"