A very brief post to say that the archive material for WDT/VSTM will unavailable for a time owing to the server on which they were hosted being closed down. I’ll endeavour to sort the links out and rehost when I get a chance (ditto actually adding something to the blog)
Archive for the ‘Music Specific’ Category
Sly have made a Prog album. A fucking trippy, mysterious, terrifying, dark and brooding beast of an album. Anyone can make noise. It takes a lot of reflection, heartbreak, stolen whisky slogs, squatting and bloodshed to actually evolve your sound whilst keeping the spirit of your act. And Sly, man, if you’ve seen them live, you know these crazy bastards know how to create the tension then release all the energy in the room into something euphoric and insane. They’ve captured it on record beautifully. It’s rich, stuff happening all over the place. So much going on. Waves of drones, drums build up, drums go ape, noise, YES. N.o.i.s. e. Chants. Screams. It’s what Industrial music should sound like before that genre got hijacked by Goths and cunts. In places, it lets you imagine if Autechre weren’t just sat behind laptops, and actually had a band. This is the closest I can describe it. It’s unique. Krautrock being dragged into the 21st century and drained of all the hippy shite. Yeah! Full on Tangerine Dream and Stockhausen vibes. And done with no strings in sight! That, comrade, is impressive. Salute….
Track one “Handed Cack” sets the uncompromising and claustrophobic scene for what is to come. It feels like how your head and ears feel like just after you’ve seen them live. Warm bloodied ears, with the threatening hum of tinnitus. Vocals being deformed in to the mix, chimes tingling high notes creating an eerie cascade.
Track one slow drips into Track two “Grey Meat”. The dying radar alarm sounds warn you the tempo is about to change. The tribal drumming builds up, with noise coming and going. Sampler stabs. Building and building until the whole thing kicks off for a riot. And then back to the alarm.
Track three, “A man that could look no way but downwards, with a muck-rake in his hand”, goes for a Musique Concrete approach to start off with, and then rips its mask off to reveal again the howls and mania heard in “Grey Meat” before then dropping some epic sub beats that pave the way for some fine cosmic nodding.
Get this on vinyl, bandcamp; play loud, in a room. And give it the respect it deserves!
(this is genuinely the largest cover art photo I have)
So despite being called a band, Ptolemy’s was actually just me, except when it came to a live setting (Live at The Oil Disco had 6 members or so as I recall: more on this when it appears next in the catalogue). Some of the stuff on this particular record – for which Thos designed the cover – is horrendous, by which I mean noisy (kind of the point) and seriously rough around the edges. A wealth of half thought through notions and partial connections. Oh well.
I still think this has some nice work on it. A lot of it seems to be constructed with VST/VSTis that were still in beta testing, meaning it’s unlikely I’d have got the same sort of results if I tried something similar today. More importantly, it was an opportunity to experiment that would eventually yield a wealth of new directions and techniques that could be incorporated elsewhere. I think this was the first time I used a cymbal as a primary instrument, for example, and this subsequently became a mainstay of Heroines work, both live (the one time that happened) and recorded. What I remember of the making of the record was that it was fun to do, which hasn’t necessarily been the case with other records. Any way…more reflections on the Archive page.
WDT017: uncle-mum – Make Your Own Hole
The seventeenth release for the archive is uncle-mum’s Make Your Own Hole (the entry on the archive page will be updated shortly – awaiting art work and a blurb better that my forthcoming ruminations). Ceri was the first signing to WDT from outside of the usual suspects. My memory of initial involvement came first from the name (uncle-mum felt like a relation to uncle dad, a term we used to describe the strange and ambiguous familial relations of a friend of ours), and then from a meeting at the fountain in Parliament Street, where I accompanied Ceri to a gig at the Art Space next to the pool club opposite Clifford’s Tower. We collaborated on a number of bits of music – and possibly will again – but I shall hold back on offering too much information as some of this is catalogued in later releases. The next release from the archive will be WDT018: Ptolemy Pegram’s Big Noise Band – Pram Noise
For the first archive update of 2013, we have reached no.16, which is about half way through if we include the VSTM releases. The Dawn of Dogs EP was recorded seven years ago, although the opening track was actually made in 2003; this track was composed on the Novation K-Station with relatively little post-production and was the first long track I had ever made. The track, like the others, was augmented with some crackle from a record player I found in the attic of one of the houses I used to live in in Norwich, with a bit of delay for good measure. The other two tracks used reworked sound from the original files, again using Cubase to change tone, pitch, duration and sustain – as well as applying a variety of effects – to create the final pieces.
The idea behind the release was a sort of mundane invasion, with potential links back to the Pink Floyd album Animals. At the time I was working on a book called Sunshine and Power Lines which featured a long story in the centre involving the disappearance of animals; this was a sort of response to that, an aural explanation of where they might have gone.
The excellent art work is by long-time collaborator Lee Broughall (tomfire, Badgerwood Commission amongst others)
The next archive update will be WDT017: uncle mum – Make Your Own Hole
After many attempts by my brother, over a period of years, to get me to listen to Damien Jurado, it was not until hearing his 2010 offering Saint Bartlett I finally realised out why he had persisted for so long. Knowing that I’d missed out on a decade of material, I would later spend a small fortune catching up, another one of my economic fails. Maraqopa’s theme is a mixture of light and dark, fragility and endurance, joy and pain, tender and raw. The opening track Nothing Is The News has an airy psych-folk feel with lush arrangements, vocal layers and instrumental textures (no doubt influenced by indie white boy Shins bassist, part-time singer songster come now sought after producer Richard Swift). Life Away From The Garden offers the contrast with a down tempo song about flashbacks to the nuances in a long gone relationship supported by an eerie school choir (which reminds me a tad of SMOG’s eerie use of a school choir on Knock Knock). Damien Jurado is typical of the kind of artist indie white boys with a penchant for the obscure, you want to introduce to your friends a carefully crafted cd/playlist but don’t want acquaintances and the other scum out there listening to/hyping. If you like your American folk music this will knock your socks off but keep it schtum!
I would describe myself as a part-time fan of Will Johnson’s Centromatic. I always enjoyed hearing their tracks on Uncut compilations but never made the leap of purchasing their music (only really listened briefly to one or two albums on Spotify). I was convinced to make that leap on seeing the video to the single “You Will Be Here, Mine” where the aforementioned Will Johnson dressed rather too dapper for a man of his ilk, possibly for a date, possibly for a funeral, is driven around an empty field and country lanes in a golf cart by a scantily clad, obese, booze hound. I’m a sucker for lo-fi, alt-country and singer-songsters and this album ticked all those boxes which meant it was easy to get me hook, line and sinker. Melancholic lyrics about death and loneliness complimented by husky, tortured vocals set against sparse instrumentation. It’s not all doom and gloom, “Rosanky” is an instrumental that will have you stomping and/or quietly nodding to yourself.
The last time I listened to an album creating loops from old-school 20s blues samples was Moby’s Play, less said about that the better (do I lose indie hipster credentials for admitting that while a 15 year old boy I loved Everloving from Moby’s Play). 12 Bit Blues will not have songs featuring on Thornton’s adverts (Everloving), it will not have quirky videos starring Christina Ricci and hopefully it will not lead to Kid Koala revealing he’s played “knob touch” with various Ninja Tunes DJs. However, this album is typical of what you expect of a Kid Koala album. A DJ not the least bit concerned with creating a catchy hook with some basic beat noodling, here is DJ more concerned creating layered, warped, ambient, nuanced, catchy hooks and beat noodle soup. Jesting aside, 12 Bit Blue has some eerie but bouncey tracks and if you like your blues you can just make out a handful of the artists from the riffs and one liners which are stretched to perfectly languid effect.
Liam has kindly provided four concise reviews of some of his favourite music from 2012, which will be posted here over the next week. This will sort of round off the Review, although there will be a few more pieces published later in the year (perhaps I’ll wait until Nov/Dec time for comedy value). Any way…
As any lonely, alt-country nerd will confess (because let’s face it, they’re all lonely, that’s why they’re listening to alt-country), there’s nothing more appealing than an alt-country songstress. Being the alt-country nerd that I am(albeit not lonely) I fell in love with Angel Olsen’s music voice last year when I heard her digi-release Strange Cacti EP. Much like at what I imagine finding a mint copy of Detective Comics , #27 or an OKeh 78 at a “yard-sale” would be like, Angel Olsen was a treasure I came across as a result of doing some research into artists who had worked with Bonnie Prince Billy (please check out Cairo Gang which is Angel Olsen’s other band with Emmet Kelly BPB’s long serving guitarist, Oscar Parson’s band Thomas A. Minor and Matt Sweeney’s early releases with Chavez). Halfway Home has the feel of my favourite Sun Records songs, especially those by Roy Orbison and Elvis. Sadly for me Halfway Home is another digital only release but one which justified my purchase of the album from her site as well as Spotify Premium because there is always one point in the day where I long to hear the folky-poignant Acrobat or the lo-fi Free and sneak off to have a listen.
Part 1 of the January Review
My first foray into Bjork’s catalogue (beyond seeing ‘Big Time Sensuality’, ‘Human Behaviour’ and the like on MTV while growing up) was Medulla. I instantly adored this record, recognising it’s stunning innovation in stretching the boundaries of what could be composed with the human voice, and as is customary a lot of the time when I have an emotional attachment to a particular record by an artist, not wanting to spoil the magic, it took me a while to delve deeper (I still to this date haven’t heard a full-length album by Tricky other than Maxinquaye).
Eventually I picked up Volta and then Vespertine. Again, I was struck equally by both the maturity of the songwriting and the breathtaking electronic arrangements, and couldn’t deny the talent of a woman rightly revered and deservedly canonised as she was by then. But, to my shame, Vespertine in particular left me a little uncomfortable. Its subject matter, however enlightening and tenderly representative it is of female desire, to the ears of an early twenties male out for whatever he could get, it was slightly unsettling in its unabashed lyrical boldness in putting all that across.
Nevertheless, I was so taken with the technical brilliance of the record that I was compelled enough to dig out Homogenic, inherited from a break up some years prior, my impression being that it was something of a junior partner in Bjork’s oeuvre (something like the ‘Lost Highway’ to the ‘Mulholland Drive’ of Medulla), however this ended up fostering an intense attachment, and to this day I listen to ‘Joga’ and ‘Bachelorette’ with a fondness far beyond the nostalgia attached to them from the MTV days.
So, upon hearing Debut for the first time in 2012 (yes, that’s nineteen years after its release during those wistful days of watching Bjork jump around on the telly after school), I desperately wanted it to live up to the hype that surrounded it as I had grown up. My impressions of her since then being characterised by the crystalline artistry and poetic sophistication of Medulla and Vespertine, the aching beauty of Homogenic, I was also acutely aware of the potential for the ultimate canonisation of her work to be hideously underwhelming, as engaged as I had been for years by her subsequent output. Upon hearing the now-abused house piano and four-to-the-floor of ‘Crying’ after the obligatory nostalgia trip of the opening track, I was preparing myself for disappointment.
By the time I got to ‘There’s More to Life Than This’, though, my outlook had gone full circle. Utilising (more or less) the same beat, but with some ingenious sound design dropped in here and there, the track delicately espouses a tiredness with the lack of imagination typical to party culture that you’d imagine would be the wont of a thirtysomething former raver, but by using the well-worn musical template described above, somehow also tacitly asserts the life-affirming capability of the same practice for those in the infancy of adulthood.
Now, so much has been written about this album that it would be fatuous of me to give a track-by-track rundown. Coming to it as I have by means of severe retrospect, having been amazed and rebuffed in equal measure by Vespertine at a time when I lacked the maturity to appreciate it’s themes, and now approaching the big 3-0 where stock-taking in life takes up much of my thoughts and activities, I’m aware that I’m bringing a lot of my own experiences into the archaeology project. But hearing the simple, twinkling idealism that flows through Debut, in such contrast but such familiarity with her later material, I can’t help but surmise that there’s more going on here than youthful exuberance, and not because I’m longing for my own days of less responsibility.
It’s precisely because she’s clever enough to situate playful, optimistic tokens – together with some soft-handed, bashful commentary – in a dance-oriented sound palette that gives Debut its identity. The simplicity of most of the words on the album seem appropriate given the hook template of dance music, and successfully translates the vignette-cum-brand-slogan style of exactly that into a form of songwriting. She is making the album at a time when rave is very much in the public consciousness, but takes advantage of the home listening context that was developing around it upon its release. The lyrical themes are plainly more faithful and passionate than the lust-drenched divas sampled on 12”s of the time, and indeed recall a kind of belief in youth and hope similar to the whimsy of Syd Barrett or Kevin Ayers, but harbouring no bigger sense of purpose than enjoying life in a heartfelt and intimate way. Such a theme outlasts any context it is written in.
Because of this, Vespertine now seems like the blossoming of an outlook on life that was in bud for her upon leaving the Sugar Cubes. Her later poetry becomes more illuminating with the knowledge that her self-awareness has been present all along, albeit somewhat mixed-up by interactions with others while being fairly inexperienced, something that most people can relate to when looking back at more youthful times.
The conscious, unshackled Bjork of Vespertine also pervades the effervescent, mostly fun-oriented Debut, only the object of her attention is engagement with anyone and everyone rather than a specific individual. The confusion that she speaks of in ‘Human Behaviour’ doesn’t appear to be directed at any point to herself (at least until ‘Play Dead’ at the end, which is kind of tacked-on as an extra single anyway, but does bookend the album’s thematic nicely) and shows a degree of individual completeness and maturity I obviously couldn’t grasp at that age, when I was failing to decode Vespertine. It’s admirable that she has such a strong sense of who she is and what she sees life is for, and I’m inclined to hear the body of her work as a grand narrative, where the seeds of self-realisation are observable right from the start, and come to fruition at Vespertine’s junction, where she begins to cultivate an environment around her that is consistent with her now fully rounded conception of herself and her purpose.
But I probably wouldn’t have grasped even that much now if I’d have bought Debut as a 9-year-old when it won NME’s album of the year, so I’m kind of glad I did this the long way round.