Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Twelve minutes is a respectable length for an EP, but with eight tunes on this disc they’re still pretty much crammed in, none of them clocking in closer to two minutes than one-and-a-half. If you think that makes this sound like a sampler, you’d be very wrong: although these bands clearly have much more to say than can be heard here, these eight songs are perfectly concise and self-contained distillations of energy, political rage, atavistic catharsis, humorous aural vandalism or whatever the appropriate term may be (and I’m sure it’s different for each song). What the eight bands collected on Without Kibou …

The Stargazer’s Assistant – Mirrors & Tides, Shivers & Voids (dark ambient)

There’s no easy categorisation for this music, no recognisable stylistic tag that readily contains it, but it evinces a coherent, clearly-stated set of aesthetic and creative values, an imagistic approach to the making of musical statements, that produces much the same clarity and precision of expression that can be found by working inside an established style. It’s obvious from the start that there is a rigorous method and a fully formed creative language informing the sounds, and part of the music’s fascination is the partial unveiling of that broad artistic vision, leaving the listener at the end of …

Tom DePlonty – Music for Michael Skrtic (experimental)

The artist Michael Skrtic is not someone I know anything about, but his cover for this album of music dedicated to him is certainly an extraordinary piece of work. References to the man are few in cyberspace, but he is the co-author of a book entitled Selections from the Dream Manual: An Aesthetic Grimoire and Compendium of Magical Art. I shall shamelessly jump to all manner of conclusions from the title of said work, without ever having looked inside it… or rather, I won’t, but I will note that surrealistic, dream-like imagery is clearly a part, at least, of the man’s creative practice. The nature …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Cassette mushes everything up and squeezes it together; on top of the warm, lush distortions naturally imparted by magnetic tape, the whole stereo recording is crammed onto half of a tape less than four millimeters wide. It takes some clever mastering to get a really spacious, clearly separated soundfield, but if what you want is a totally integrated sound then the format does half the work for you. This, you may be thinking, says ‘punk’ in brackets after the title, so why am I not talking about the songs? Production and other technical matters are a means to an end at best where punk’s concerned…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

We’ve all seen some pretty rough justice in the wake of global capitalism’s recent crises, but Greece has suffered worse than any other part of the developed world. The Figures Of Enormous Grey And The Patterns Of Fraud appears to be a response to these circumstances, although it’s too complex an album to be pinned down quite so glibly. Choral voices are layered with a complex variety of rock textures, ranging from post-rock atmospherics, through mathy convolutions to heavy prog riffing. It’s the big epic sweep of things that tends to predominate, rather than the individual voice or the…

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

A combination of electro-acoustic and programmed sounds are used here to create a sound that pays clear homage to African polyrhythmic percussion music, unpitched attacks mingling with sounds similar to idiophones or lamellophones, although they might come from almost any source. Then there are the synths, guitars and lo-fi samples… No Security Through Numbers is far too complex to glibly summarise with a juxtaposition of stylistic labels or a list of other bands I think you might have heard of. Towards the end of ‘Super Symmetry’ a series of fusionesque stabs appear

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Opening with an extended skit inspired by John Carpenter’s Darkstar, it’s obvious from the start that this Strange Gibberish mixtape is going to be heavy on the humour. It’s also heavy on the creativity and experimentation, with some of the beats straying well into avant-garde territory. It’s far too diverse for me to sum it up here, but the quality is consistently high; this is independent music, in every sense of the term, and most of the producers take a pretty freewheeling, eclectic approach to beat-making, while the lyrical themes are varied and unfettered. Although it’s often …

Cyberchump – Flutter And Flow (ambient rock)

Cyberchump, according to their website, ‘is an electro-organic duo that explores aural soundscapes of rhythm and moment’. While my rarely dormant inner pedant is keen to learn what other kinds of soundscape might exist, this gives a fair sense of the textures to be heard on Flutter And Flow. The music is far from ambient; it has a strong skeletal structure, but it is clearly directed at the exploration of atmosphere, rather than the articulation of narrative, or the erotic power of groove. There are plenty of signs of instrumental agency remaining in the music, which risks an audience …

Tim Risher – The Cracked Chimes (ambient)

Ambient music is usually associated with a certain set of characteristics; although dance music producers became interested in ambient as a source of inspiration, and whole stylistic zones have arisen around the combination of different dance genres with ‘ambient-type’ sounds, even to the extent that the term is frequently used unadorned to refer to such music by those unaware of its provenance, one thing it often lacks is an overt beat. When Tim Risher suggests we might hear his music as a ‘mix between ambient and techno’, I guess we should take his use of the latter term as a…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

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.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Positive vibes abound on this perfectly formed EP produced by the estimable Rich Huxley, whose main gig Hope And Social sits in exactly the same affective territory; clear-sighted optimism is the order of the day, and because the songs are notably lacking in trite sentiment or spurious closure the effect is genuinely uplifting. The musical engine that drives the feeling is a light but deep acoustic groove, which swings hard with an upbeat lift on even the most laid-back of the tunes. The band is locked in so tightly that it’s hard to credit how relaxed they sound, and the dynamics are shaded and weighted with real sensitivity; the mix strikes a perfect balance between separation and integration, or more to the point, it has a shedload of both, so although

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Sufficiently independent not to sound ‘indie’, yet aesthetically straightforward enough not to sound ‘experimental’, Neurotic Wreck’s schtick is a pretty accessible art-pop stew; a predominantly electronic production mashes up trip-hop, electro, shoegaze and other downbeat sources, into a melancholy and and carefully textured soundworld, freighted with nostalgia and regret. The album is all about its songs, which is to say it’s as much about lyrics and melody as it is about production, but the creative textures and arrangements are a central part of the utterance; it’s moderately avant-garde, but it’s also furnished with a pop sensibility, and very well put together. It’s not party music, but it’s very listenable, and indeed re-listenable.

Paragaté – Spaceflight Pharmacology (ambient)

Possessed of a melodic simplicity that invokes naïvety, and a harmonic rhythm that deploys some erudition in the service of fairy-tale inevitability, ‘Friendship’, the brief G. Cook piano piece with which Tom DePlonty opens Spaceflight Pharmacology, is a scene setter. Quickly succeeded by a piece that might more readily be associated with Paragaté’s established interest in ambient music, it serves notice to the listener that they should have their ears open, and that their critical responses should be held in abeyance until they have heard the entirety of this hour long utterance. Many of the pieces that follow are more aurally discursive than is common in ambient music, and although atmosphere is clearly a concern throughout, with a sense of…

The Echelon Effect – Field Recordings (post-rock/ ambient)

The development and inheritance of stylistic traditions is rarely as linear or orderly as is commonly imagined; the evolution of art seems to follow a process of cultural selection analogous to the biological processes identified by Charles Darwin. In art, as in nature, developmental processes diverge, converge, intersect and run parallel in unpredictable ways; just as convergent evolution produces mammals that look exactly like fish, so the pursuit of particular creative inclinations within a broad tradition can lead to rock music that sounds like ambient music, or even Field Recordings. Conversely, the body of artistic practices commonly classified as ‘post-rock’ diverges quite radically at its extremes, with heavy guitars and mathy complexity at one pole…