V/A The Jewelled Antler Library (Porter) 4cd box 61.00
Oh wow. It's here, though not for long. You may have seen it announced on our blog or elsewhere, and really should have preordered one... we've already sold most of the copies we got (which was a lot, as many as we could afford, really). But at the moment we still have, like, a dozen. And possibly will be able to restock a few again next week, though we don't know that for sure. The label only pressed 1000 copies, and we know they're going fast. So perhaps listing it here is just for posterity's sake. So, what's all the excitement about you ask? If you're a fan of San Francisco's acclaimed Jewelled Antler collective of psychedelic/drone/improv/nature folks you should know, some years back (2003), they decided to release a series of 3" cd-r eps, once a month or so, with entries from JA regulars like Thuja, likeminded folks such as Dead Raven Choir and Antony Milton, and also odd, one-off quirky projects like Loren Chasse's frog-sounds disc dubbed Green Laughter. The idea was to release stuff that stood alone in twenty-minute doses and didn't need to be padded out to full-cd length. These cute lil' 3"s proved quite popular here at AQ, and of course are now long, long out of print like all Jewelled Antler cd-rs. Apparently a set will put you back about $100-120 on eBay nowadays, or until recently anyway... Well there'd been talk for some years now of these wonderful eps getting reissued on cd, in a box set or something, and lo it has finally come to pass thanks to the enthusiasm (and deep pockets) of Porter Records. The Jewelled Antler Library box contains 4 discs in cardboard sleeves, Books One to Four, comprising all 12 original entries in the approximately-monthly 3" cd-r ep series plus some extra bonus material! 59 tracks, four hours and forty minutes in all. It breaks down like this... Book One: Loren Chasse/Tomes/The Ivytree/Hala Strana, Book Two: Dead Raven Choir/The Famous Boating Party/Uton, Book Three: Claypipe/The Muons/Thuja, Book Four: Fursaxa/Kemialliset Ystavat/The Ways Of God To Man. And interspersed between each of the thirteen volumes are twelve "Footpath" tracks of brand new field recordings by Loren Chasse, up-close-and-personal documents of rain and wind and other evocative textural cracklings and rustlings from the natural environment. The box also contains individual, full-color cards with the cover art and credits from each ep. We reviewed all of them when they originally came out (or almost all of 'em, not sure what happened to the last few). Waste not, want not, so what follows is a conglomeration of our reviews of each library installment, slightly edited for clarity and to eliminate redundancies. Note how several of the entries in the series may have been the very first time we'd heard from a particular artist, such as Finland's Uton for instance, now well known to us and AQ customers... Volume 1: Frogs!!! Can AQ-customers resist frog recordings? We think not. Certainly we can't. Green Laughter is primarily frog field recordings made and edited by Loren Chasse (Thuja, Id Battery, Of, Blithe Sons, etc.). It's twenty minutes of the call of the wild (featuring frogs, cicadas, and perhaps birds), starting off as a fairly straight documentary and then blending into a computer-processed drone-wash constructed by Chasse from his original recordings. It's like wandering in a dense creature-inhabited forest back East somewhere in the summertime, your ears overwhelmed by the natural sounds, you getting dizzy and almost passing out, the ribbitting and chirping and buzzing and tweeting taking over your mind. But it eventually dissolves back into a blissful background ambience. Real nice. And many of the sounds on here that sound insect-like or electronic Loren assures us are in fact frogs. It's nature's electronic music, the sound of a laptop computer overwhelmed by heat and long grasses and the green laughter. Just the thing for when I (Allan) get homesick for Pennsylvania. Volume 2 is the debut recording from a group called Tomes, who are, as it turns out, basically Jewelled Antler flagship group Thuja (Rob Reger, Loren Chasse, Glenn Donaldson, absent Steven R. Smith), letting themselves get a little bit louder and noisier than they usually do in Thuja, harking back a bit to precursor band Mirza in fact. Probably the main reason this wasn't put out as a Thuja release is because Tomes' title and artwork are in fact the Jewelled Antler collective's knowing nod to a black metal aesthetic (which has fascinated Glenn particularly of late). But while intended as a tribute of sorts to black metal, the psychedelic drone music found here only holds subtle echoes of dark Nordic woodlands and burning churches. The twenty minutes of abstract heavy improv of The Dreadful Gift is darn good stuff regardless of the tangential conceptual framework. With noisy phantoms clanking chains, groaning drones, tell-tale heartbeats and and distorted freeform guitar feedback, this does achieve a dark n' dirgey but beautiful atmosphere. Too beautiful perhaps to leave the black metal hordes quaking in their corpsepaint, it still could be a Jewelled Antler Halloween soundtrack of sorts - I wonder why didn't they wait 'til the October Library installment for this? Definitely recommended. Volume 3 comes from The Ivytree, a solo project of one of the Jewelled Antler's chief protagonists, Glenn Donaldson (who can also be found in Thuja, The Blithe Sons, Knit Separates, The Birdtree, etc). Donaldson has publicly announced an affinity for creating different monikers to accompany the innumerable variations of his musical productions, so The Ivytree may be just one in a number of upcoming 'tree' projects from Donaldson. Certainly this 18 minute ep has a lot in common with his previous 'tree disc, The Birdtree album, which garnered high praise from us. Centered around a plaintive, elliptical finger-picking guitar technique which renders every note full of melancholia, The Sun Is The Lamp weaves in and out of harmonium drones, field recordings of birds, and Donaldson's evocative vocals. As strong as the best Richard Youngs projects that might be the closest comparison we can make, this is another fantastic recording from Jewelled Antler! Volume 4 is by Thuja's Steven R. Smith, who has taken up the Hala Strana moniker for his Eastern European-folk music inspired meditations. Karst continues down the path of his previous Jewelled Antler production Kohl, with a more ramshackle production for his dense acoustic arrangements for guitar and scratchy violin, which often hints at Eastern European timbres but as played by Nikki Sudden. In fact two of Smith's tracks are versions of traditional Polish and Romanian folk songs. Often beginning with a clutter of loose sounds, Smith coaxes his orchestrations into melancholic melodies and has smothered everything with an unusual patina of crunchy vinyl static, giving these 18 minutes a distinctly antiquated feel. A great entry in a great series... Volume 5 is by Dead Raven Choir, the Texas-by-way-of-Poland based folk/improv one man project that the Jewelled Antler powers-that-be seem to be totally in love with of late - this was their 3rd DRC release of 2003! As with his previous Jewelled Antler cd-rs, DRC here conjures up some eccentric vocal theatrics and sparse, haunted acoustic guitar playing, like some sort of Eastern European Jandek. And his black metal obsession with wolves continues in the title here as well. Scarily beautiful, with atmospheric piano and unknown other sounds providing a hissing soundscape for his vocal, all three tracks here featuring macabre poetry by Paul Verlaine. Volume 6 is something a bit different, yet familiar too to Jewelled Antler aficionados. It features the Blithe Sons (Glenn Donaldson and Loren Chasse, both also of Thuja and much else besides) joined by Eleanor Harwood on vocals. This trio's music is totally inspired by '70s art rock ensemble Slapp Happy, it's actually an intentional tribute of sorts. Eleanor is the heart of this, and we must say that for an untrained vocalist in an improvised setting, she's very impressive! Singing lyrics taken from a book of Kenneth Patchen poetry that was near to hand, "The Famous Boating Party", she totally inhabits the Dagmar Krause role, her vocals all wonderfully warbly and birdlike and lovely. She reminds us of Bjork at times too, no bad thing! Backing her up/leading her on, Glenn strums melodically on his 6 & 12 string guitars and adds comforting keyboard coloration, while Loren's "percussion & noises" both provide a steady beat and contribute the usual detailed, natural Jewelled Antler ambiance. It's very hazy and folky and fairytale like, a summer's afternoon encapsulated in a magical music box. Maybe not to everyone's taste (Slapp Happy certainly isn't either) but for some this will be a highlight in the Library series. Volume 7 is also from outside the immediate ranks of Thuja and company. Although they've had a couple of cd-r releases popping up from tiny labels around the globe, this was our introduction to Uton. This anonymous, acoustic-noise-drone band hails from Finland, although they seem far more at home within the New Zealand community of Birchville Cat Motel, Anthony Milton, and Handful of Dust. Zwuiji is a bit more grating than most entries in the Jewelled Antler Library series, which typically opiate themselves with hazy improvised psychedelia and obtuse folk renderings. Rather Uton revels in mistreating their electric gear in order to fill up the audio spectrum with buzzing drones that swarm out of their amplifiers like angry wasps. Scratchy violins and atonally shifting wind instruments hover behind these gritty walls of vibrating feedback which comes across more as a misaligned engine block rattling all of those tones inside your head than as a typical trick with a couple of effects boxes. Certainly the fans of cd-r labels Celebrate Psi Phenomenon or PseudoArcana will like this. Volume 8 hails from New Zealand's Claypipe. It seems Jewelled Antler have found some kindred souls Down Under, no not Gandalf and Frodo but in this case Antony Milton (who runs a cd-r label himself, Pseudoarcana) and Clayton Noone (C.J.A., Armpit) who together are known as Claypipe. Repetition and drone and field recording grit coexist with lovely acoustic guitar - it's real nice. With wistful, earnest vocals, some distorted and layered, this is neither indie-pop nor environmental ambient, but a hybrid that totally fits with Jewelled Antler 'groups' like the Blithe Sons and Child Readers, while possessing that special New Zealand magic we all adore. Seven tracks, 20 minutes, and you're left wishing it were longer. Volume 9 is a disc from SF's Muons, not a Jewelled Antler band per se, but in those guys' orbit. There's five songs here, just under twenty minutes of fragile, psychedelic folk recorded live, where they really shine. Inspired by traditional British folk music, but made soooo minimal and spacey that they've been called the "Bernhard Gunter of space-folk", the Muons make forlorn lullabys for adults. For this performance, the Muons were just the duo of Greg Bianchini and Rickey Reneau. Greg, who has played with Jewelled Antler acts Franciscan Hobbies, Thuja and Blithe Sons, is an gifted instrument maker, and on this recording plays a home-built 14-string electric lute as well as sings. Rickey plays an electric dulcimer, probably also built by Greg. Greg's languid strumming and melancholic vocals seem to drift out of the smoke and mist of another era, and could be from a lost UK psych-folk comp, although this is so slow and sad and desolate that no hippy could have made it - they'd be too bummed out. We're also reminded of some Galaxie 500, or old NZ stuff like the Chills. Certainly this is a bit different than much else in the Library series - it's got to be the most 'composed' set of songs found on any of these 3" discs. But we think JA fans will like it, a lot. It has a 'flowers in the rain' vibe that's just lovely. And the loveliness extends to the paintings Greg did for the 3" cover. Very nice. Volume 10 is from Thuja. With the series getting close to the end, it's about time for these guys to finally make an appearance (unless you count the almost-Thuja entry by black metal inspired alter ego Tomes). 20 or so minutes, 2 tracks. Again, the Thujans (Loren Chasse, Rob Reger, Steven R. Smith, and Glenn Donaldson) make some of the most beautiful and mysterious abstract instrumental improv we've heard. All we're told is that Fable was "recorded at night in the Garden of Kains, August 30, 2003". There could have been weird old hippies sitting in, or magical woodland beasts (of the past), or academic dronologists gone a bit strange on natural pharmacueticals...but probably it was just Thuja, and their music is conjuring these imaginary visitors not the other way around. All those above reviews from our archives get us up to book/disc four, volumes 11, 12, and the previously unheard by us quasi-volume 13 in the Library series. We'll briefly describe 'em here (as if you needed us to...): Volume 11 is from Fursaxa, and consists of one haunting track, "Harbinger of Spring". Nearly 18 minutes of wordless vocal drone, tumbling tribal drums, and other mysterious atmospheres. Good music for the next time you're trapped inside a Wicker Man. Volume 12 comes from Finnish freaky forest folks Kemialliset Ystavat, who always seemed like Jewelled Antler soulmates. Five tracks here of their moody, magical improvs. Primitive, krauty jams we love. And then the "bonus" Volume 13 is by Jewelled Antler act Ways Of God To Man (Christine Boepple, Kerry McLaughlin, Loren Chasse and Glenn Donaldson). It was originally released in a very limited edition on a NZ cd-r label in 2004. Despite featuring 2 former AQ employees, we never even got any... Three tracks ("Nothing", "Everything", and "Anything") of dark psychedelic throb and abstract, distorted melodic murk, over 28 minutes total. It sounds to us like Jewelled Antler's tribute to Ya Ho Wa 13! Even if you already have the other 12 volumes of the library on the original 3"s cd-rs, and getting them again on the more durable medium of actual compact disc isn't a compelling enough reason to buy this box, we'd imagine that getting to hear the Ways Of God To Man could sweeten the deal considerably. All right, considering we KNOW we're gonna run out of these right away, this review is quite long enough! Just one more paragraph to go... Need we say, pretty darn recommended. But do we have any complaints? Well, musically, not really, of course some volumes will appeal more that others but that's the deal, and you can't get 'em individually anymore anyway. Also, just in terms of physical production, any ambitious, unique project like this is bound to have a few flaws. Will the metallic foil debossing of the Jewelled Antler logo on the box top IS quite handsome, the box itself is a bit of a disappointment. It just a bit flimsier than we were expecting ("heavy chip board stock" it's not), apparently due to the difficulty of debossing on heavier cardboard. Also it's bigger than it needs to be, leaving empty space inside for the cds and cards to rattle around. Had each one been stuffed (in true Jewelled Antler style) with twigs and moss and suchlike, that would have solved the problem, unfortunately that probably proved to be impractical, but you could do it yourself once you get this! There's also just a couple of proofing errors we noticed, nothing serious (Hala Strana got left off the back of the box, alas) but it's still too bad. However, the overall presentation is still pretty nice and of course it's the music that matters. So, that said, we can only reiterate: pretty darn recommended!
TOMES "The Dreadful Gift, Part 1" MPEG Stream:
THE IVYTREE "White Sun" MPEG Stream:
HALA STRANA "Karst" MPEG Stream:
WAYS OF GOD TO MAN "Nothing"
V/A Today's Voices (Hyperscan) cd-r 12.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. In the "found" sound "field" recording vein of Kathy McGinty, Daddy's Curses, or Petros Drecojecai's Mistaken Receptions comes Today's Voices. We weren't given much information about the collection other than that it is a super limited edition (ie: a buy now or cry later sort of thing) and that the contained herein recordings are all of cellular phone conversations that were picked up via scanner between 1997 and 2000 (apparently the advent of digital cellular phone technology has made such scanning of cellular phones impossible). Clocking in at just over 70 minutes, there's enough strange, absurd and disturbing material within to satisfy even the most thirsty voyeur. And probably more unnerving is that most of the tracks for some reason only contain one half of the conversant parties, which makes 'you' the listener feel more like a participant than a casual observer. This odd lack of a second party to the conversation brought several of us here to the conclusion that it was the silent participant recording their own conversations. But listening to the variety of calls perhaps calls that conclusion into question. Either way, we have not been given any further info. It may not come as a surprise that a goodly fifty percent of the tracks are sex related; be they the belligerent rantings of young men trying to impress(?) the ladies on a party-line by calling them minotaurs and threatening to call CYS on them, the tentative musings of a straight man exploring his sexuality, or a phone sex chat line first date (complete with climax). While some of the phone sex tracks may put to test even the most iron willed, there are respites of interesting slices of life that are both intriguing and beguiling. There's the two old black guys complaining about the youth of today being nothing but "Charlie's children", a coked up soccer mom rambling from gift baskets to reject fortune cookies in under two minutes, bizarre nuage philosophy & advice, incomprehensible noises and more! Comes packaged with silk-screened artwork that's made to look like it could be a Folkways record. Great! Upsetting! Or just greatly upsetting!
"Charlie's Worried" MPEG Stream:
"Stag Line 2" MPEG Stream:
VEGETABLE ORCHESTRA, THE Onionoise (Transacoustic Research / Monkey) cd 16.98
THE BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR of music made entirely with vegetables. Well, almost entirely. This extremely healthy twelve person ensemble's raison d'etre is indeed the use of instruments constructed from vegetables... they've designed carrot flutes, celery bongos, and something called the cucumberophone! We've been fans for a long time, but some of you might not be familiar with the Vegetable Orchestra, it's been a while since their last proper album (this is their third, or fourth if you count a remix disc). Years and years ago, back in 2003 when they were more formally known as the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra ('cause that's where they're from), we made one of their early albums a Record Of The Week. That's long out of print now, so we're pretty excited that the Vegetable Orchestra has at last sprouted a new disc. Even Andee here at AQ, who is infamous for NOT liking vegetables, loves the Vegetable Orchestra (finally, a decent use for vegetables, he thinks... yeah he'll listen to vegetables, just doesn't like to eat 'em). The VO has definitely kept perfecting their techniques and exploring new possibilities of vegetable-based sounds, this album displays a lot of variety (and not garden variety, even though it belongs in a garden). There's the tracks that sound like minimal electronica... also poppier ones, and darker, ambient soundscapery... also some thumping techno beets, er, beats, and onionoisy outbursts. In the past they've done some covers, Kraftwerk among 'em, but these 12 tracks are all homegrown tunes. Rhythmic and textural, not only is the MUSIC enjoyable, but there's the added enjoyment of the intriguing way it puts your imagination to work, trying to conceive of what possible manipulation of what possible vegetables could possibly result in these sounds??? It's amazing, there are tracks here that manage to remind us of everything from Pan Sonic to Konono No.1 to Matmos to the big salad we had for lunch yesterday. And listening to these organic, "crunchy" sounds, some of the time it would be easy to think this really belongs in our field recordings section. The rhythmic pitter patter of rattling legumes, or the snapping, rustling of celery stalks (we're guessing?) can sound like rain, or surf... other veggies mimic the sound of our faves, frogs! And the blowing of horns carved from root vegetables (again, we're making assumptions) can sound like larger mammals, or fog horns. Some of the tracks are calm, others rambunctious, all interesting. It's groovy, and experimental. Track ten, a short one entitled "Krautrock", gets positively NOISY, loud, distorted, industrial, as if the latter-day Faust took over the vegetable instruments. Look, going full circle here, it wouldn't matter WHAT their instruments were made of, vegetable animal or mineral, if the resulting sounds and songs weren't good. These are. Creative, curious, even kinda catchy. The nutritional benefits are just a bonus. Now that they've got this new disc out, we really hope they come play here in the States. Would love to see 'em live. They could do a tour of farmer's markets! Comes in a nice digipak with poster. Recommended!!! (As part of a balanced diet... c'mon, Andee!)
"Scoville" MPEG Stream:
"Nightshades" MPEG Stream:
"Transplants" MPEG Stream:
VOYAGE THROUGH MONGOLIA, A (ANNE KENEDI) A Voyage Through Mongolia (Voyage En Mongolie) (Sittelle) cd 17.98
WALDAMSEL / FOREST BLACKBIRD s/t (Natural Sound / Wergo) cd 18.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Most of you who are gonna want this already know you need this before I even describe it. All of you who bought the Conet Project, Sounds Of North American Frogs, recordings of ghosts, telephone wires, caves, burning fires, seals, whales, penguins, cracking knuckles....well here's one you can add to that collection. Field recordings of the Forest Blackbird, supposedly the most gifted songbird measured by our standards of melody, harmony and rhythm. And this recording is in fact quite beautiful, and not just because of the Blackbirds' song, but all the other surrounding sounds as well: the roaring of the sea, Tawny owls, a Robin, a Reed Bunting, a Grasshopper Warbler, rustling of leaves, a Willow Warbler, barking dogs, a Cuckoo, a Wren, a Raven, the engines of Diesel ships at sea, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Blue Tit, a Wood Pigeon and morning breezes. Really quite nice.
"One" RealAudio clip:
"Four" RealAudio clip:
WATER STORY (JEAN-LUC HERELLE) Water Story (Histoire De L'Eau) (Sittelle) cd 17.98
WATSON, CHRIS Cima Verde (Sound Threshold) cd 17.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Curious that this disc is not on Touch, but the lack of the Jon Wozencroft design stamp does not detract from another impeccable recording from the world's premier field recordist - Chris Watson. A founding member of both Cabaret Voltaire and The Hafler Trio, Watson turned his attention in sound to the natural world in the late '80s, having worked on countless documentaries for the BBC. We've long been taken by his ability to present and contextualize the humble field recording as a magnificent piece of art, much in the way that great photographers - say, Richard Misrach - can present all of the details of a landscape with no discernable tricked out production and make it sublime. Cima Verde is a document of the alpine landscape in Northern Italy, primarily focusing upon the diversity of bird life, although the rushed blur of the first track seems to be a collision of atmospheric events reminiscent of his work with BJ Nilsen. The blurting caws of ravens introduces us to avian life, made more ominous than mischievous by a thrumbing of wires agitated by the wind. Watson then spends a considerable amount of time with the grouse - first the gentle cooing of a black grouse and then the dramatic mating dances of the wood grouse (aka the capercaillie). This latter recording with its erratic flapping and odd growls is one that seems oddly familiar to us - perhaps we are just getting this confused with one of those Sitelle field recordings disc; but it sounds great nonetheless. Watson does include some water recordings - a very nice underwater recording of a stream and some cold cold rain; but the final recordings on Cima Verde return to the birds in two dawn choruses, one of which begins with the mellifluous song of a nightingale eventually overtaken by the rest of the riparian creatures, waking from their slumber in ecstatic chirping. Of course, it's amazingly recorded with details popping directly through Watson's microphones into our speakers. Very highly recommended!
WATSON, CHRIS El Tren Fantasma (Touch) cd 15.98
This awesome Watson disc, now repressed and back in stock! Preeminent field recordist Chris Watson returns with a bit of a twist on El Tren Fantasma. Pretty much all of his work up to this point (outside of his contributions to Cabaret Voltaire and The Hafler Trio way back when) has been audio verite. Even such albums as Weather Report, which edit field recordings from the African savanna (for example) into a condensed journey, are pristine, realist documents codified through the exquisite, lush details in Watson's environmental sounds such as that of a lion panting after a successful hunt. El Tren Fantasma is much more engineered, imagined, and processed than anything else in his solo career; and this fictionalized Watson is no less compelling, no less dramatic, and no less awesome. El Tren Fantasma - The Ghost Train - traces a now-defunct passanger rail line which ran from the Pacific Coast of Mexico to Veracruz on the Atlantic Coast. Watson had the opportunity to make this journey while working as a sound recordist for the BBC for their Great Railway Journeys. His compositions work with extracts from that excursion travelling across Mexico along with archival recordings whose origins are not specified. As he's stopping throughout the Chihuahuan Desert, Watson does capture the stunning chorales of chirping frogs, buzzing insects, and the blaring call of a California Quail (whose syllabic chortle is often mnemonically transcribed as "chi-CA-go" as if it were seeking a more temperate climate); but it the train's power and mass that provides so much of the impact for Watson's album. By the fourth track "El Divisidaro," Watson captures a series of loops of the train - with the bellowing horn pitched back and forth into a sustained symphonic tone and the clatter of the train's engine becoming an ersatz rhythm track, which in turn gets tricked out with some Martin Hannett styled, phasing delay work. It's easy to get lost in the majesty of this track, much like the expressive electronica that Wolfgang Voigt produced on Konigsforst as Gas. What a brilliantly simple transformation executed to perfection! "Mexico D.F." reprises this strategy with rhythmic churns building out of the grinding brakes and the roiling tumult of steam blasting through the train's pipes, becoming an almost militant thump on a lone drum. The train's horn drifts suitably in a cloud of reverberation at the end of the album, dissolving into the ghostlike apparition Watson intended it to be. As brillliant as this work is, we should also point out that Watson is not alone in composing such fictionalized scores purely through environmental sound. We would be remiss if we failed to point out the work of Australian composer Tarab, whose deft psychogeographical albums share the scope and execution with Watson's El Tren Fantasma. So great!
"Sierra Tarahumara" MPEG Stream:
"El Divisidaro" MPEG Stream:
WATSON, CHRIS El Tren Fantasma: The Signal Man's Mix (Touch) 12" 12.98
El Tren Fantasma was Chris Watson's amazing, imagined excursion across Mexico released in 2011, tracing a now-defunct passenger rail line which ran from the Pacific Coast of Mexico to Veracruz on the Atlantic Coast. Watson had the opportunity to make this journey while working as a sound recordist for the BBC for their Great Railway Journeys, and the resulting album was constructed using those field recordings. Unlike so much of Watson's previous field recording albums, El Tren Fantasma sported a quite a bit of processing and production work, transforming the rhythmic chug of the train into an electronica backbeat. The two mixes on this single further those propulsive aspects, especially on the album's highlight "El Divisidaro," where Watson captures a series of loops of the train - with the bellowing horn pitched back and forth into a sustained symphonic tone and the clatter of the train's engine becoming an ersatz rhythm track, which in turn gets tricked out with some Martin Hannett styled, phasing delay work. It's easy to get lost in the majesty of this track, much like the expressive electronica that Wolfgang Voigt produced on Konigsforst as Gas, expanded through glassine tones and deeper rhythms. "Veracruz" is certainly a bricolage, but pulls back on the rhythmic interlocking considerably, with chunks of locomotive noise surging against the backdrop of the harmonic train horns. Fantastic!
WATSON, CHRIS Oceanus (Touch) 7" 8.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Brand new two track 7" from sound recordist extraordinaire Chris Watson. Having done time in both the Hafler Trio and Cabaret Voltaire, Watson deals now almost exclusively in unadulterated field recordings, mostly of nature and wildlife. Past full lengths have been huge hits around here, and this single is just as compelling. Demonstrating that, it takes much more than a tape recorder and a microphone to capture magical field recordings. It takes an amazing ear, and a bit of technical savvy, one listen to these two tracks, recorded underwater around the Galapagos Islands, make that abundantly clear. Two tracks, each recorded at a different depth, both dense and deep, rife with all manner of unexpected sonic subtleties. The first at 3 meters, is gorgeous and clear, it sounds nearly the same underwater as above, the sounds of the boat, and the water lapping against it, sea gulls, what sound like stones knocking against one another, all of these sounds wrapped in that haunting undersea shimmer, and captured perfectly, crystal clear and so vibrant. The flipside finds us dipping down to 10 meters and the sound changes dramatically, deeper and more resonant, all the sounds more warbly and indistinct, burbling and languid, muted and softly glimmering, all naturally smeared into a warm soft focus soundscape of underwater drones, and muted sonic events. So lovely. And both sides end with gorgeously hypnotic locked grooves, which were so nice, we ended up letting both play for a long time before realizing they were looping... Thick vinyl and a super striking Jon Wozencroft sleeve.
WATSON, CHRIS Outside The Circle Of Fire (Touch) cd 15.98
Chris Watson's amazing second album of field recordings. Super up-close and personal intimate recordings of wildlife and insects. Essential. When it comes to the art of field recordings, Chris Watson is in a realm all of his own. As much as we love the Sittelle series (i.e. The Inaudible World - A Sound Guide Of The French Bats, Rutting Red Deer, and Pastoral Bells), Watson still stands quietly alone, so unique in what he is able to do with a microphone in a natural setting. So great is his work that the acclaimed naturalist Sir David Attenborough sequested Watson for recording on his breathtaking BBC series The Life of Birds and Life in the Undergrowth. Watson's history also separates him from many naturalists who have come to field recording or engineers who like being out in the woods, as Watson began his career as a founding member of Cabaret Voltaire and later established The Hafler Trio with Andrew McKenzie. In both cases, the provocative use of sound required a considerable fastidiousness in order to express the convoluted ideas (especially for The Hafler Trio) through the ephemerality of sound. It's been said that Outside The Circle Of Fire was the best electro-acoustic record that was never made, and that's a fair assessment. This album was Watson's second solo recording made back in 1998 and has recently been repressed. This features 22 recordings of various animals in their indigenous locales. The opening track of a cheetah purring is a sublimely intimate recording, in which the rasping ur-drones can easily be mistaken for the bowed minimalism of Taj Mahal Travellers or Organum expect for the fact that these sounds originate from an animal that wouldn't think twice about killing you. Similarly, the male capercallie display could be confused for a musique concrete piece by Pierre Henry or Luc Ferrari with its dynamic movement and expressive bouts of noise. Other notable creatures that Watson records are the Hippopotami (which make sounds as cute as the animals are large), a southern right whale surfacing off the coast of Argentina, and curious clatter from deathwatch beetles. Quite simply stunning.
"Adult Cheetah Resting By Beobab Tree" MPEG Stream:
"Male Capercallie Display" MPEG Stream:
"Spider Monkeys Moving Through Tree Canopy"
WATSON, CHRIS Stepping Into The Dark (Touch) cd 15.98
Awesome Touch debut from one of our favorite field-recordists in the world, who travels the world, recording environmental sounds. Super recommended.
WATSON, CHRIS Sunrise In The Sukau Rainforest (Framework) audio dvd-r 30.00
Two and half hours of a continuous, unedited recording from Chris Watson, the field recordist who should need no introduction! The Sukau rainforest is found in Borneo along the Kinabatangan River and is a dense primary forest with little access to the forest floor with the exception of a decaying boardwalk that meandered from the lodge where Watson was staying deep into the heart of the rainforest. One morning in October 2011, Watson followed this path several kilometers to the furthest point and lashed his microphones to a tree in order to record the growing dawn chorus of the birds, monkeys, and insects as their activities increased with the rising sun. At the beginning of the recording, Watson gives a brief description of the environment around him before he quietly retreats and lets the forest do the talking. He is quick to point out that the watery sounds are not of rain but of the huge amounts of moisture captured on the vegetation, tumbling down on the forest floor. As daylight approaches, the frequency of the cicadas and buzzing insects seems to increase ever so slightly and the bird calls tend to become more vibrant if a bit more spread apart. It's so easy to get lost in these beautifully rendered sounds of the forest; and Chris Watson's trademark of quality is stamped all over this recording. If you might be balking at the price of a dvd-r, the Framework Seasonal discs are only available to the donors supporting the Framework Radio series and Resonance FM. Patrick McGingly - the producer of Framework - made one exception in allowing aQuarius to be the only shop carrying these discs. So, yes they are expensive, but they are certainly going toward a worthy cause and Chris Watson's recording is well worth the price of admission!
"Sunrise In The Sukau Rainforest (excerpt)"
WATSON, CHRIS Weather Report (Touch) cd 15.98
Oooh. We're super pleased to get this new Chris Watson field recordings album (see note below). He's one of our favorites in the realm of just going out in the world, shutting up, and listening. With really good equipment and recording skills, that is. In the past he's brought us up close and personal with a variety of African wildlife, as well as the fauna os a lot of weather phenomena in the mix. There's three long tracks, each providing an aural portrait of a location over time. Kinda like time-lapse film, but the action is not sped up here, just carefully edited together. They're all natural environments, not urban, the first ("Ol-Oloool-O") taking you on a virtual expedition into the wilds of Kenya's Masai Mara, one day in October 2002. The next, "The Lapaich" compresses four months of sound from a Scottish highland glen in the fall and winter. Lastly, "Vatnajokull" closely examines the slow flow of a glacier in Iceland, which sounds like drone piece from our experimental section. From animals, birds and insects to washes of wind and rain to quiet, creaking ice, this is all pretty darn magical. Newcomers to Watson's work should note that there's no processing of the sound to make it "experimental music", it's a straight-up documentary with no additions or interference (aside from the neccessary edits). Then again, I suppose it is "music" in the John Cage 4'33'' sense. And it's wonderful sound. Amazing, vibrantly real stuff that'll fire your imagination. If you've seen that amazing new documentary movie "Winged Migration" you've got a filmic analogy to the kind of thing Watson captures here. NB. You know, it's a bit embarrassing, but we've never listed this man's releases in our database before, aside from the "Star Switch On" disc of remixes and his contribution to Hazard's "Wind". Whoops! Dunno how that happened, 'cause we're all really big fans of his work. So, at least we can offer a timely review of this, his third proper release on Touch, and perhaps retroactively review his previous efforts "Outside The Circle Of Fire" and "Stepping Into The Dark" on a future list.
"Ol-Olool-O" MPEG Stream:
WATSON, CHRIS & BJ NILSEN Storm (Touch) cd 15.98
Wind and rain, birds and waves. Ok, that sounds a little bit like a clock radio you can get from the Sharper Image catalog. But if you're into field recordings of nature sounds, you know there's more to this than just white noise to help you sleep. On a full-length "audio documentary" such as this, your ears can aid your imagination, allowing you to "experience" far places and phenomena in a way much more immersive than a Discovery Channel program. And here, you're in the hands of two of the best field recordists around -- the UK's Chris Watson and Sweden's BJ "Benny" Nilsen (also known for his work as Hazard and his exquisite duets with Stilluppsteypa entitled Vikinga Brennivin and Drykkjuvisur Ohljodanna) should be familiar to fans of field recordings, both of whom being responsible for some of our favorite releases on the Touch and Ash Int'l labels, including several prior collaborations on Hazard's albums. We're always thrilled to get a new release from either of them, documenting where/what/when/how they've been listening to (in) the world. The aptly-titled Storm finds the duo capturing heavy weather over the North Sea, from opposite shores. There's three long tracks, the first and last solo recordings done by Watson and Nilsen, respectively, the middle track a synthesis of recordings made by both gentlemen. In Watson's words, here's more of an explanation of the genesis of this disc: "During December 2000 several significant storm fronts developed across the North Sea and Scandinavia. Benny remarked to me that he had recorded some of these on the Baltic coast and proposed a collaborative CD project based around our mutual interests in the rhythms and music created when the elements combine over land and out to sea. We spent the next few years gathering recordings on our respective coastlines and islands during the very active weather windows during the autumnal equinox and winter solstice. This was focused around our following one particular cyclonic system, which veers over Snipe Point on Lindisfarne to the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, and finally descends upon Oland and Gotland where Benny listened in with a favorite pair of Sennheiser omnidirectional microphones." We're not really clear on how the edits were done, other than artfully! Through the tumult of thunder and crashing surf, and the calm of gurgling water and cawing gulls, they've seamlessly stitched together 50 minutes of wondrous audio, allowing you to stay warm and dry in the comfort of your own home and enjoy the sounds of these storm-wracked coasts.
"No Man's Land" MPEG Stream:
WATSON, CHRIS & MARCUS DAVIDSON Cross-Pollination (Touch) cd 15.98
It's not entirely clear why these two pieces were bundled together, other than they're awesome, and they're both by Chris Watson, he formerly of electronic legends Cabaret Voltaire, now composer and field recordist, the first half of this here two-fer, is in fact, a processed field recording, but not processed in the way we're used to, where found sounds are mutated into new sounds, no, what Watson has done is recorded 12 hours (sunset to sunrise) of South Africa's Kalahari Desert, the hidden nighttime symphony that is the world of the nocturnal animals and insects, but that whole 12 hour recording, compressed into a mere 28 minutes. The cool thing is, it doesn't actually sound strange or processed, it's not a barrage of overlapping sounds, instead, Watson has deftly created a half hour glimpse of the desert at night, the trill of crickets, the high pitched whine of other insects, the whipping wind, chirping birds, some of the sounds identifiable, but many of them downright alien sounding, the whole thing in some ways playing out like some abstract experimental 20th century electronic tape music, only as always done better by nature. A gorgeous, haunting listen. The second piece by Watson for a festival called PESTival focusing on "insects in the arts and the art of being an insect" (we definitely need to check that out!), and composed and arranged by Marcus Davidson using recordings by Watson, exploring vocal harmonies between humans and bees, a choral piece woven into the sound of buzzing bees, the result is pretty stunning. A warm summery afternoon, replete with wildly chirping birds, is underpinned by the deep thrum of buzzing bees, over which the choir sings long tones, creating lush harmonies, and mysterious overtones. At first, it's more vocals, the bess way down in the mix, but as the track progresses, the buzz of the bees grows more prominent, the human voices more hauntingly liturgical, building to an intense operatic crescendo culminating in a squall of blurred smeared sound, sounding neither animal or human, before fading back into the insect chorale, the human voices drifting dreamily over the lovely low end hum of buzzing bees, that buzz, growing murkier and muddier until for the last few minutes it's just a warm washed out thrum. So lovely.
CHRIS WATSON "Midnight At The Oasis" MPEG Stream:
CHRIS WATSON & MARCUS DAVIDSON "The Bee Symphony"
WHITMAN, KEITH FULLERTON Dartmouth Street Underpass (Locust Music) cd 14.98
Keith Fullerton Whitman gets the honors of launching a new series of manipulated field recordings to be released by Locust Music. Keeping to the theme of the series in which one raw recording is paired with a processed 'response,' Whitman (who has also recorded as Hrvatski) offers an evironmental recording from a tunnel near a subway station in Boston. He explains that glass walls line the tunnel which provide an unusual acoustic situation which accentuates a naturally occurring reverb. Along with screeching breaks of the subway and the occasional dialogue from passersby, Whitman captures an eerie buzzing, possibly from halogen street lights. Despite the thick reverb, some of the voices are a little distracting from the phenomenology intrinsic to that space. Altogether a great field recording. For the processed response, Whitman pulls a sample from that buzzing and amplifies it into irridescent mass of electric field disturbances. In subtly shifting all of the parameters, Whitman unravels a lovely piece of Minimalism.
"Dartmouth Street Underpass" RealAudio clip:
"Dartmouth Street Reply"
WIENER, OSWALD & HELMUT SCHOENER Team of Jeremy Roht: West Dawson, Yukon Territory (Suppose) cd 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Right now I can almost hear the groans of the 60% of AQL readers that will think we are absolutely nuts in our enthusiasm for this recording. "First they try to convince me to buy a cd of some damn elephants banging on trash can lids and blowing on harmonicas and now they want me to buy this?" Okay, those of you who groaned can now move on to the next item on the list... Now that they're gone the remaining 40% can talk dog music. This disc is, in the simplest of terms, a recording of a Mr Jeremy Roht's sled dogs made on location in West Dawson, Yukon Territory, Canada. Like the Thai Elephant Orchestra, this project attempts to explore the possibilities of music produced by animals. Unlike the Thai Elephants the music these dogs were creating was being done regardless of human interference and, in most cases, in spite of it. When the two producers of this disc approached Mr Roht about making such a recording of his dogs, he was suspicious thinking that they were working for the plaintiffs (his neighbors) gathering evidence for a case against him. Fortunately they were just as excited about the notion of the dog music and set out capturing the dogs' spontaneous performances. What they probably didn't expect at the outset of their project was that the dogs themselves might not be so forthcoming in sharing their repertoire with outsiders. Turns out that dogs, unlike elephants, are generally quite shy about bursting out into song around humans. Undeterred, the cd's producers -- Oswald Wiener and Helmut Schoener -- went about devising an "Automatic Dog Music Recorder" to clandestinely capture the canine chorus anytime night and day. A photograph of the ingenious bark-activated device hanging from a birch tree appears on the back cover. Even better though is the hand drawn, exploded-view schematic of the A.D.M.R. in the accompanying booklet. The chorus of dogs definitely seems to have its lead vocalists and harmonizers and after a while one can hear the motifs of the leading parts being expressed in stretto as though in a fugue, but then also inverted and even, dare I say, in retrograde form. When we play this cd in the store people invariably chuckle at first, but many -- if they stick around long enough -- tend to agree that there's more going on here than just howling to be heard. We even got the professional advice from our friend Cowboy -- a Husky / Akita mix (and the dog of local customer Cayce who you may remember from Aquarius Video #9). When we put the disc on, Cowboy instantly perked up his ears and listened for about half a minute before chiming in with his own variation on the song's theme. I think it's important to point out that Cowboy didn't just immediately start howling, which would imply an autonomic response, but listened to the tune for a while to find the appropriate key and melodic accompaniment. It was also interesting to hear Cowboy's variation in how it differed in timbre from the pack, which had been singing together for years. Looks to me like Wiener & Schoener could put together a comparative series of recordings of dog musics from different packs around the globe.
"excerpt 1" RealAudio clip:
WILLIS, WESLEY Greatest Hits (Alternative Tentacles) cd 14.98
Wesley lives on the edge in Chicago, can pinpoint the day he started hearing voices, and is diagnosed as a chronic schizophrenic. He also released something like 10 or more albums the past couple of years (all of which Jello Biafra presumably owns), each of which takes him approximately 36 hours to record. People swear by his wit, his nonsequiters, his innate talent. Another case of fetishized "madness" and/or a creative force to be reckoned with? Discuss.
WILLIS, WESLEY Greatest Hits (Alternative Tentacles) lp 9.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Wesley lives on the edge in Chicago, can pinpoint the day he started hearing voices, and is diagnosed as a chronic schizophrenic. He also released something like 10 or more albums the past couple of years (all of which Jello Biafra presumably owns), each of which takes him approximately 36 hours to record. People swear by his wit, his nonsequiters, his innate talent. Another case of fetishized "madness" and/or a creative force to be reckoned with? Discuss.
WILLIS, WESLEY Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (Alternative Tentacles) cd 11.98
Another "essential" collection of casio-core rants from Chicago's favorite street performer. Yeah, "Suck A Caribou's Ass", that was a hit.
WINDEREN, JANA Debris (Touch) lp 15.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Field recordists Douglas Quin and Cheryl Leonard have gone to great lengths to capture their Arctic and Antarctic field recordings, spending countless frigid days with frozen fingers trying to hold tightly to hydrophones dangling amidst the ice floes and slushy waters. It's no wonder those two present their work in such an unadulterated fashion when the work came at such cost and at such peril. But Jana Winderen is far more creative in her approach to field recordings, only too happy to transform a watery burble she captured in some obscure fjord in her native Norway into a thickened isolationist dronescape dappled with elemental textures, creating something sonorously as frightening, cold, or desolate as the sound sources would imply. As with the work of BJ Nilsen or Jonathan Coleclough, none of Winderen's field recordings are too precious to be manipulated, compacted, augmented, or simply fucked with. The two sides of Debris were both extracted from a couple of her sound installations, the longer of which is entitled "Drying Out In The Sun", based on recordings made at / near / beneath the surface of the ocean, which plunge into the nether regions of the deep-sea trenches and alluvial plains, amassed into pressurized low-frequency drones. "Scuttling Around The Shallows" returns to her fascination with shrimp which she first displayed on her Tapeworm cassette The Noisiest Guys On The Planet, with erratic snaps, clicks, and crunches made by those small crustaceans amidst deep-ocean ambience. The fourth in Touch's ongoing 'white label' series of super limited vinyl productions.
WINDEREN, JANA Energy Field (Touch) cd 15.98
Paralleling what the Australian sound artist Tarab achieves through his magnificent albums, Jana Winderen collects an impressive array of field recordings and edits them into her compositions without much (if anything) in the way of digital processing. For Energy Field, Winderen traveled to the barren land-and-seascapes of Greenland, Norway, and the Barents Sea, using high-end parabolic microphones for the above ground recordings and hydrophones for the seaborne sounds, capturing creaks from massive glaciers, the slippery resonance of ice crevasses, the sounds of crustaceans (remember her cassette for the Ash International label, The Noisiest Guys On The Planet?), the chatter of summertime birds, and huge passages of windswept vibration that sound more like one of BJ Nilsen's swarms of drone than anything produced via natural means. Winderen presents three extended pieces that steadily undulate and crest, much like the patterns of the ocean when viewed from a considerable distance, and have been pocked with various tactile recordings of ice cracking, water dripping, the strange bellows from mating fish, and whatnot. Hypnotic, beautiful, and wholly compelling, Winderen's Energy Field is another exemplary entry in the Touch catalog, and totally up our alley here at AQ.
"Aquaculture" MPEG Stream:
"Isolation/Measurement" MPEG Stream:
"Sense Of Latent Power"
WINDEREN, JANA Surface Runoff (Autofact) 7" 10.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. At first glance, it's easy to assume this is part of Touch's recent series of seven inches, and on first listen, there's nothing to dissuade us, but in fact, this is the latest release from Autofact, who does indeed have a deal with Touch to do their vinyl, but this is not a Touch record, although as we mentioned it might as well be, and will no doubt appeal to the same folks. Processed field recordings, recorded using hydrophones (underwater mics). The A side is a swirl of textured gurgles, almost a straight field recording of a pastoral creekside (birds, splashes, wind) but as the track progresses the sounds become more textural, almost rhythmic at times, sounding much more like Tim Hecker or Oval. The flipside features a collage of underwater recordings from rivers in Norway, Iceland, England and Germany, deep rumbles, soft creaks, occasional insects, the sound of a stream, water lapping on the shore, the sound shifting to more of a warm whirring very dreamy and abstract, slipping back and forth, above water, below water, crystalline and spacious, murky and muddy and indistinct, woozy and swoony and quite pleasing. Beautiful Jon Wozencroft style full color photo cover, and limited to only 500 copies.
WINDEREN, JANA The Noisiest Guys On The Planet (Ash International) cassette 7.98
Okay, field recording nuts, this one is for you. Just who ARE the noisiest guys on the planet you ask? Why, that would be the decapods of course, aka the ten footed crustaceans, a la crayfish, crabs, lobster and shrimp! The real question then, is what kind of noise do these noisy guys make? Well, thanks to Jana Winderen (whose Surface Runoff 7" on Autofact we raved about a while back), we now know. Describing it is the hard part. Not sure if this is a recording of their little feet on some surface underwater, or them swimming around, it doesn't sound as much like a field recording as it does some strange fuzzy, buzzy, glitchy drone record. Which is actually pretty cool. A swirling cloud of muted clattery crunch, muted skitter, what sounds like record crackle or tape hiss, static even, all over little bumps and creaks, almost like the sound of something hitting the mic, but it seems more likely that this is the creatures doing what they do, elsewhere, there seems to be rocks shifting or moving against each other. You can also hear the sound of running water, splashes, maybe it's just the current, it's a pretty awesome fascinating sound, very textural and abstract, layered and otherworldly. As a field recording artifact, it's definitely weird and wonderful and enthralling, but simply based on the sonics, it's a pretty awesome listen, minimal and drone-y and abstract and surprisingly soothing. LIMITED TO 250 COPIES, these are probably the last copies we'll get. Includes a cool tape cover, with drawings of a decapod and liner notes detailing interesting facts about the creatures.
XEROPHONICS Copying Machine Music (Seeland) cd 14.98
Another high-concept item here, with a quite self-explanatory title. Yep indeedy, it's music made from the sampled sounds of copiers. Kinda not that much different from the dot matrix printer symphonies of The User reviewed here not long ago (though the copiers can't perform live via network and ascii "instructions" like the printers can). The fellow behind Xerophonics, one Dr. Stefan Helmrich PhD., made field recordings of copier machines in action, then sampled and re-assembled 'em via computer into these 13 tracks of manipulated, looping, layered machine rhythms. Clacking parts and melodic electronic blips too. Sometimes it's like a room full of shuddering copiers approximating current cutting-edge electronic dance music -- a copier rave if you will. You can imagine that they provide their own light show as their copying plates flash. There's plenty of weird noises and "notes" that are exceedingly hard to believe came from a copier, but they must have somehow. I mean, some of this gets really scary -- maybe it should have been the soundtrack to that new Terminator movie, "Rise of the Machines" I think it's called. Terminator office machinery! Pretty cool. Deep thinkers might find more going on here, as part of the motivation for this project involves artistic commentary based on the additional meaning inherent in the sampling of sounds of COPIERS. Geddit, copiers. After all, it's on Negativland's Seeland label. Furthermore, Helmrich's "xerophonic" manipulations are based on aural analogs to the work of xerographic artists: mirroring, resizing, motion-distorting, multiple copy degeneration. Hmm. Regardless, definitely one for fans of the aforementioned The User!
"Xerox 5818" MPEG Stream:
YONKERS, MICHAEL & THE BLIND SHAKE Cold Town (Learning Curve Records) cd 12.98
Man, Michael Yonkers sure has been on a roll as of late. Just a few lists back we had both his collaboration with Plastic Crimewave Sound and a collection of early pre-Microminiature Love recordings with his band the Mumbles. Even after 40+ years of making music, Yonkers still sounds vital, focused, and, to a certain degree, out for blood. At the risk of sounding like a bunch of bastards, we gotta say, this is hardly the kind of music you would expect from a man in his 60s. Though to be fair, his music has never sounded like what you would expect from ANYBODY in a lot of cases. Yonkers has by no means mellowed with age; in fact, his current work is aggressive and in tune with the times and hardly some watered down attempt to cash in on his ever-growing legend. But where so many others would fail, Yonkers pulls through and shows us how and why he has been such a force to be reckoned with since the long delayed reissue of Microminiature Love brought him to the attention of adventurous music fans throughout the globe. At the same time, Cold Town effortlessly puts today's garage rock hopefuls in their place, waaaaaaaaay far behind a master like Yonkers. His music obviously falls into the "rock" category, but there has always been a degree of experimentation and a desire to step beyond what is to be expected. The songs on Cold Town are tuneful yet noisy, catchy but with just the right amount of punkish aggression, and Yonkers' voice sounds pretty much as great and idiosyncratic as it always has. It no doubt helps that he has such a shit-hot band backing him up in the form of previous Yonkers collaborators the Blind Shake, who whip up five Yonkers-free tunes of their own on the second half of the album. The band is tight and heavy with a little bit of skronkiness thrown in, sure to appeal of fans of Rocket From The Crypt and pretty much anything else related to John Reis (including, of course, Hot Snakes, the Sultans, Drive Like Jehu, etc...). Another welcome surprise from a guy who we just can't get enough of.
"MICHAEL YONKERS & THE BLIND SHAKE - What Can I Do" MPEG Stream:
"MICHAEL YONKERS & THE BLIND SHAKE - Cold Town" MPEG Stream:
"THE BLIND SHAKE - Radon Detector"
ZA FRUMI Chapter 2: Tach (Waerloga) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. The return of the orcs!!! Chapter two in the musical tale of Uglach and his band of orcs. Here's a little of what we said about chapter one (which we also have in stock): "Much like a radio play, the whole drama is played out via dialogue, ambient sounds and incidental music....a musical story, utilising dark ambience, cinematic soundscapes, the sounds of life in the forest (sticks crackling, wind blowing, water splashing, swords clashing) and a litany of grunts and growls, which is the dialogue spoken entirely in orcish." Chapter two is heavier on the music (not heavier mind you, but containing more music), with less emphasis on battles and dialogue, sounding much more medieval and almost renaissance faire-ish at times (although fear not, there is still plenty of orcish being grunted, as well as the occasional unsheathing of swords). Flutes, hand drums, jaw harp, and didgeridoos are woven into fantastical soundscapes, evoking forests, caves and times of yore. In fact, according to the liner notes, much of the record actually -was- recorded in forests and caves (as well as lakes, rivers and a castle). Those of you who need another Lord Of The Rings fix before film number two might find what you're looking for with Za Frumi. If you don't have the first one, you might want to start there, but if you're anything like us, you'll have to get both!!
"Bug Selrath" RealAudio clip:
"Shadapon" RealAudio clip:
"Za Shapaukatar Shapol"
ZA FRUMI Za Shum Ushatar Uglakh (Tarki) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Let me preface this review by mentioning that Allan has never read The Lord Of The Rings (even with his extensive D&D experience...hmmm). Za Frumi is a group of Swedish musicians, disenchanted with the black metal scene, and the music scene in general, who were compelled to look elsewhere for the magic and mystery they felt was lacking in modern music. The result is 'Za Shum Ushatar Uglakh', a musical tale of a clan of orcs and their battle against a mighty vampire lord! That's right, orcs. The story goes like this (from the liner notes): "Join the epic voyage of the orc leader Uglakh and his compatriots. Their adventure begins in the deep lustrous forest filled with the sounds of the wild and the roar of a great fire. Around it sit the Uruki Uglach, awaiting the mysterious primal dance of their shaman. The morning after, the uruks, compelled by their mystic shamans advice to Uglach, attack an old castle. After the raid, the subservient Golug Fachtal and his more adventurous kinsmen Yagui forage the forest, and set out to build a watch tower. After a frustrated argument about a toadstool, the wet Yagul and the other orcs begin building a tower, while the dagalush Knish and his kapuli friend go further afield, and find a deep sea beach, where the melodious elves are making sweet music. Later, we join the clans march during a night filled with wonder. They press constantly on, sometimes marching, sometimes sneaking. After a short stroll in the forest, Uglakh and his clansmen happen upon the dark, brooding castle of the dreaded vampire Ismael. The journey through his dark castle has two parts, with mysterious subterranean chanting and majestic orchestral sounds. They face many perils there, and end in the final battle with Ismael in his greatest chamber." Much like a radio play, the whole drama is played out via dialogue (more on that later), ambient sounds and incidental music. So simply as a musical story, utilising dark ambience, cinematic soundscapes, the sounds of life in the forest (sticks crackling, wind blowing, water splashing, swords clashing) and a litany of grunts and growls, which is the dialogue spoken entirely in orcish (for real! -- a handy translation is included in the booklet for those not fluent in the tongue). It's really interesting and quite entertaining. But the music, taken on its own, is quite an epic dronescape (albiet littered with very un-drone like segments). 'Za Shum...' is a strange mix of dark rumbles and throbbing pulses, simple clattery rhythms and tribal workouts, grunting and growling and roaring (that could be electronic rumbles or misplaced death metal vocalists if you didn't already know it was orcs) and the occasional folky flute interlude. Imagine the No Neck Blues Band jamming with Jonathan Coleclough or Andrew Chalk, with Chris Barnes (Cannibal Corpse) or Glenn Benton (Deicide) grunting the dialogue with the Thai Elephant Orchestra as their rhythm section. It's that weird. It's that cool.
"Nudertogat" RealAudio clip:
"Za Shulg" RealAudio clip:
"Za Kala" RealAudio clip:
ZARDO, GINO Walking East (Alluvial) cd 14.98
"Walking East (Excerpt)"