Browsing All Posts filed under »Music reviews«

Various Artists – Album Roundup

July 13, 2017

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It has been a long while since I reviewed any music: my life became rather full of obligations, which reduced my output and eventually halted it altogether. Between then and now I have had the chance to reflect on what had become a somewhat procedural activity, and I have reached a few decisions. From now on, I will write about only one record at a time, and I will write about only those submissions that I feel are particularly interesting objects for discussion, rather than prioritising by quality, by aesthetic preference, or by the receipt of a physical submission. However, at the point at which I realised I couldn’t possibly…

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

August 23, 2016

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Finger-picked arpeggios fall with the regularity and impersonal melancholy of rain, offset by a vocal delivery that is hesitant not in its phrasing, but in its timbre. The sound of this four-song EP is intimate, extremely close to the listener’s ear, and it is formed from the kind of performative gestures in which the proximity of the musician is most pronounced: this is sound as embodiment, its aesthetics rooted in an erotic of human frailty. Lyrically and melodically it is concerned with the concrete, with particulars, but it is an idea of the concrete that is as ephemeral as smoke and as fragile as eggshells - Calming River’s voice

Ashley Reaks and Joe Hakim – Cultural Thrift (dub-rock poetry)

July 19, 2016

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Ashley Reaks has a good way with lyrics himself, but there’s a strong synergy to his collaborations with spoken word artist Joe Hakim, such as ‘I Want To Get A Celebrity Pregnant’ from Before Koresh. Hakim is a social observer, a curator of experience who speaks sometimes from a lived subjectivity, and sometimes from a presumably imagined one, often in successive lines, articulating marginalities and bearing witness to acts of unconscious resistance. As such his concerns are distinct from those to be found on the Ashley Reaks albums from which he is absent, such as the satirical character portraits and serial-killer aesthetics…

Darts & Arrows – Altamira (avant-jazz)

June 28, 2016

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Avant-garde music (and other art) is animated by a narrative of self-definition - it is the privileged marginal, the self-marking other, whose exteriority to the mainstream is established by virtue of the trailblazer’s enhanced legitimacy, rather than its exclusion from the established sites of legitimacy. But one person’s avant-garde, obviously, is another person’s outsider art, and it is only in the writing of history (from within the established sites of legitimacy) that any such status is assigned with durable authority. This is not to say that ‘the’ avant-garde’s internal claims and narratives render it immune to the operations of power…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

May 31, 2016

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This album, originally released in 1989, was for a long time the definitive answer to the question ‘what do Thinking Plague sound like?’ It was ten years before In Extremis presented a new line-up and a changing sound to the record-buying public (sans legendary founder-member Bob Drake) – and let’s face it, bands as daring and un-commercial as this tend to communicate with their audience more by the medium of recordings than by live performance. Cuneiform Records, with whom Thinking Plague have been since that follow-up, characterise this album as the band’s ‘stylistic coming of age’, and that certainly seems a fair …

Karen Grace – Bitter Sweet (avant-folk)

April 12, 2016

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I’m sure that Karen Grace thinks she’s just writing songs about the things that matter to her, and recording them in the way that suits them best. There’s a whole world of acoustic singer-songwriters out there, all doing that, and a frightening number of them do it really well. Doing it really well is not enough to make it outstanding however, or even, unless you happen to have a personal connection to the artist, worth listening to at all – because however particular it is in detail, in almost all cases that particularity is paradoxically generic. So what is worth your time in this brave new world of saturated exposure, of …

Die Goldenen Zitronen – Flogging A Dead Frog (art-punk)

March 15, 2016

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Formed at the inception of what would come to be known as the Hamburger Schule (from which they vehemently distance themselves), Die Goldenen Zitronen had their beginnings as an identifiably punk band, but a commitment to creative, aesthetic and political rigour has led them to a variety of stylistic positions, some quite avant-garde. Entertainment might be claimed as a touchstone of punk aesthetics, though, and in that sense, as well as in the overtly political character of many of the songs, it would seem fair to argue that this album of predominantly electronic New Wave/ avant-funk sounds is still clearly situated …