When we get to the fourth track, ‘Womb’, we learn that Cthulhu Detonator is capable of changing tack. There is still noise, in the sense of forcefully stochastic elements within the timbre of the music, but the principal sound is tonal, sonorous and enveloping. ‘Blinding White Light’ takes a similar approach, as does the mid-section of ‘Transmit.Disintegrate’, but most of the rest of the record consists of much harsher noise based compositions, with an avant-gardist structural approach that eschews any easy aesthetic options. It’s hard going, demanding listening, but it’s very creative stuff, and well worth the effort.
Ian Thistlethwaite tackles ideas in his songwriting with an oblique and perceptive approach, that often pretends to be head-on and un-analytical. It’s probably appropriate to call him a singer-songwriter, but also misleading, since most of those bash out some chords on a guitar and don’t think too hard about what they’re doing. Not only are the songs ironic, intelligent, and pleasingly off-the-wall, they are set to an eclectic diversity of sonic landscapes, many of which are infectious grooves, constructed from ingredients as varied acoustic country-rock and clunky synth-pop. Not many musicians are as true to their own vision; good, not just because it’s unique, but because it’s good.
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Immovable Objects use intense and emotive post-rock textures to relate a complex affective narrative, cast in terms of human social and spiritual development. The song titles represent a cycle, beginning with ‘From Bondage To Spiritual Faith’, passing through various states such as liberty, abundance, selfishness, dependence and so forth, and ending with ‘From Dependence Back Again Into Bondage’. The extent to which music can handle such conceptually precise meanings is debatable, and the emotional tenor of the album feels largely more positive than its titles in the second half, but it gives you something to think about while you listen, and I read the music’s melancholy as the commentary of a relatively detached observer. It sounds lovely however you take it.
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Mémoire is Gonçalo Pereira’s pick of the over two-hundred songs he recorded prior to the release of this project’s debut album, Belongs To Mafra. With so much material to choose from programming a coherent album can be a challenge, but there’s a convincing flow and a sonic consistency to this record. The pace is generally sedate, and the intensity well short of the thunderously heavy levels espoused by some post-rock artists; with its deep, thick textures of soft distortion and long-tail reverb, How Comes The Constellations Shine owe more to shoegaze than to math-rock, and the listening experience is more about atmosphere than it is about riff or groove. It’s carefully crafted, skillfully made, and an absorbing listen.
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Although a persistent rhythm is present in parts of this composition, it is the stochastic and apparently random granularity of environmental or incidental processes that are mined for meaning in this complex and imaginative release. The effect is one of found sound, musique concrète or industrial field recordings, but the album was in fact created by means of a series of improvisations, largely performed on acoustic or electro-acoustic instruments. The music is a paean to the beauty of natural disorder, and it has the unpredictable coherence of birdsong, although its timbres are harsher and more mechanistic. The White Edition (cover shown above) is the original composition, available only on CD, while the Black Edition is a remix and re-edit, available as a download. In either version, it’s a fascinating and demanding work.
On Mixtape For Dicky Echodrone turn their established dreampop and shoegaze methodology to the interpretation of a set of covers, mostly from the 80s, a decade that has been enthusiastically (and rightfully) excavated of late, despite seeming to many who were teenagers at the time (the present writer included) to have been the most barren desert in the history of popular music. This may have been true, but the current era makes it seem a golden age of musicianship and creative integrity. Echodrone make the songs their own, avoiding the common pitfalls of excessive respect or inadequate understanding; the anaesthetic mist that pervades the band’s own material is present, but so is the original sense of the songs. Pleasantly, peacefully enjoyable music.
The continuing adventures of two of the most consistently creative and individual musicians I’ve ever encountered. Colin Robinson’s surreal angularity has proven to be completely compatible with Richard Knutson’s drifting absurdities, synergising into stiff funk mind-melters that are as infectious and thought provoking as they are amusing. 8 Black Postcards seems to lean more towards the sort of relentless machine-funk characteristic of David Byrne and Brian Eno’s early 1980s collaborations, which itself was under the spell of the mechanistic wing of Krautrock, to which both these artists are clearly indebted, but the sound has been pretty consistent across all the Churn Milk Joan releases so far (there has been another one, Without A Horse, since I received this to review, but I’ve been a bit snowed under). This album is pure lunatic brilliance.
Pam Shaffer writes intelligent, literary songs, performing them on piano with a classically regular sense of timing; it’s pretty stuff for you to listen to and think about. Except that it seems to have taken a turn for visceral; a lot of the songs on It Is Happening Again sound like rock, and Shaffer’s voice, which at times could sound a little brittle on As We Are, has broadened and deepened into a more powerful implement altogether. There are still plenty of sedate piano arpeggios accompanying delicate, breathy verses, where scansion takes priority over musical phrasing, and there are some beautifully simple string arrangements as on the earlier album, but there is a greater diversity to the orchestration and the vocal performances. As We Are was great: this is even better.
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This album is part of a compound work, which aims to show ‘different perspectives on the same theme, in 12 musical compositions and 17 poems/ideas’. I’ll restrict myself to discussing the music here, being as this is a music blog and all. It’s highly organised, meticulously composed music, orchestrated for a slightly warped chamber ensemble, that sounds disturbingly chaotic: it is, if not atonal then disorientatingly chromatic, and if not arrhythmic then highly irregular in its periodicities. Part of the beauty of music like this, if it can be said to possess such an ideologically contingent quality, is in the work of decoding it, and the infinite possibilities that process illuminates. Easy listening this ain’t; but I think En dehors de tout – Partie 1 is genuinely brilliant.
Sadly you’ve missed the boat on the physical release of this album, which was limited to twenty copies on cassette, including a bonus piece recorded directly onto each tape. Infinite Folds consists of two live recordings, one based on modular and the other on granular synthesis, with a short, specially recorded piece bridging the two. It is, typically of Nils Quak, as beautiful as it is creatively uncompromising, never abandoning its rigorous examination of the tiniest and most subtle of sonic details in favour of more obviously accessible macro features. Its transformations and narratives are so carefully and skillfully managed that they are emotionally overwhelming; at any given moment there seems to be nothing to it, but its long game is devastating.
This transpacific team-up matches some liquid, sun drenched soundscapes and heavy, measured beats from DJ Sid-the-Apocalypze to promiscuous international collaborator Pixieguts’ cool, expressive vocals. The results could probably pass as trip-hop, if you’re desperate to hang a sign on it, but it’s very much it’s own thing. These are fully fledged songs and compositions, rather than dance tracks designed as tools for a DJ; spacing off with sounds like these in your headphones is a pleasure few could fail to enjoy. I’m not familiar with the production side of this partnership, but I’ve never heard Pixieguts make a duff creative choice. Deliria Tang is spot on.
Electricjezus are a rackety sludge/doom duo from Russia, that make do without a bass by dint of a guitar sound that is a heavy, gloopy syrup of trouser-flapping brown noise. I can’t understand the lyrics, but then I never can with this sort of music, even when they’re in English; however, judging by the cover and the samples, I’d say they have a healthy interest in decaying corpses, cannibalism, dismemberment, undeath and insanity. The riffs are heavy, with effective use of dissonance, and thunderous drumming, while the vocals are filled with malevolence and rage; Грязь поколений is a lot of fun to listen to.