Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Richard Wileman seems to be going through a particularly fertile patch of late, putting out releases somewhat faster than I can write about them (and the day he puts out something I don’t write about will be a long time coming). After the vigorous collaborative chops-fest (I simplify unfairly) of Strange Relations comes this short programmatic piece depicting the eventual collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. Wileman predicts a cooler, calmer and altogether more pastoral event than sprang immediately to my thoughts, although the vast and oblique affective compass of his alternately gelid and cosy …

Dropout Patrol – Sunny Hill (art-pop)

‘Literate’ is a term that some might use to characterise Dropout Patrol, and ‘erudite’ is another: neither is really up to the task. Sunny Hill is not a literate record in the sense of being wordy, or more concerned with meaning than feeling, and neither is its erudition of the obvious sort, presenting a succession of clever references or flash musical competencies. But this is a band that knows its language, that has schooled itself in the ways that sounds and stylistic tropes signify, presenting its insights with precision and nuance. There is never any possibility of substitution or paraphrase in the exact…

Prescott – One Did (avant-rock)

There’s an openness, and a sense of ensemble solidarity, to Prescott, that puts me in mind of jazz as much as it does of the art-rock influences they own up to in their press release; much of the music is clearly arranged in detail, but it feels improvisational, and its musical meanings seem to stem from this group of musicians, making this sound, on this occasion, with that devotion to the present moment so characteristic of the most committed jazz. In stylistic terms there is little to tie this music unequivocally to jazz, rock or anything else. Frank Byng’s drumming is expressive and propulsive …

Review Of The Year 2014: 20 Albums

My views on end-of-year roundups in general are quite aggressive, and can be read at greater length in the introduction to last year’s selection, here. Suffice it to say that I think anyone claiming to know which are the best few albums released in any given year is seriously delusional; my selection is simply some of the records I liked the most out of those I happened to come across. These records are all seriously good, but there were over a hundred other albums that could equally well have made it onto my list; my advice is, yes, investigate these records, but more importantly, go hunting for …

Regal Worm – Neither Use Nor Ornament (avant-prog)

‘A small collection of big suites’ is the sub-title applied to this ‘mini-album’; I can’t concur with either characterisation. Taken as a single work in several movements (it’s really two long suites with three short pieces as an entr’acte) this would be, at forty-six minutes, a respectable length for a Classical symphony. In other words, it’s quite short for a prog-rock album, but it’s a pretty substantial work; its predecessor, Use And Ornament, is about fifteen minutes longer, and I guess that the language by which this record is being promoted suggests we should expect a substantially longer release in the …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

This is a selection of records that I’d like to review, but for one reason or another, it’s not going to happen. Some (in fact most) of them just didn’t quite make the cut, in light of the extremely high standard and preponderance of physical submissions I get now (these were all received as digital submissions). Others have just been sitting in the queue for too long for a review to be meaningful now, with their release dates receding behind us into historical time… All of them are well worth listening to however, although I do appreciate that most people reading this won’t have tastes quite …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Wayne Myers, singer, songwriter and principal instrumental culprit, sent me this mini-album in early February according to my records, but it somehow slipped through the net and never got reviewed. Well, better late than never. Sleeping Beauty is pure poetry. I intend that as a value judgement, but also a literal description; Myers is a poet who works in the medium of song. Now I’d think of it as a species of insult to say that this was an EP of poems set to music, but that’s not what I mean: these are songs, written as such, and the musical materials they incorporate are neither a commentary …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Richard Pinhas and Yoshida Tatsuya are legendary figures in the French and Japanese experimental rock scenes, respectively. ‘Experimental’ is a term that implies a bit of diversity, and the projects they’ve been involved with have covered quite a range of approaches, so there is nothing predictable about this record, and nor would there have been, whatever it sounded like. Pinhas is a guitarist with a penchant for live looping technology, which he uses here to create shimmering skeins of sound rather than hard-edged rhythmic repetitions, mutating colour fields with texturally filigreed surfaces and pelagically roiling depths. He uses quite pronounced distortion, which takes the music into the fringes of noise, but it is soft and warm, amniotically …

Matt Stevens – Lucid (avant-rock)

Matt Stevens has a particular approach as a solo performer; he gigs on his own, with an acoustic guitar, and he plays instrumental music. He’s a great player, but he doesn’t tackle the challenge of solo performance by throwing a heap of complex technique at the problem; instead, he uses live looping technology to accompany himself. He builds up a pattern of rhythm and harmony, in anything from one to several layers, and plays melody over the top (or not, depending on what else is going on). You can see this if you go to one of his gigs. He’ll start playing, then after a while he’ll stop, but what he’s just been …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

This music is the brainchild of Michael Woodman, guitarist and vocalist in Thumpermonkey, written using the immersion composition techniques described in The Frustrated Songwriter’s Handbook. The method seems to work. I have no idea what method he employs when writing for Thumpermonkey, but that seems to work too, and for several reasons Eat Your Robot sound a lot like his other band. One reason is the lyrical style; another is the way the melodies are phrased; another is Woodman’s singing, which is highly distinctive; and equally important are his guitar playing and riff writing, which are a …

Review Of The Year 2013: 12 Albums

This is the fourth consecutive time I’ve written a review of the year’s albums, which is slightly scary, as I’m under the impression that writing about music is something that I’ve only just started doing. Still, as senility begins to work its erosional magic on the brain, the years do slip past without leaving so much cognitive residue, and as long as someone can confirm for me that I’ve been having a nice time, I won’t rail against it too much. At least I can look back through these annual articles, and although I’ll think it was someone else that wrote them and I can’t remember any of the music, I’ll know that a year took …

Godzilla Black – The Great Terror (avant-rock)

I wasn’t supplied with a lyric sheet when this album was submitted for review, so my assessment of its verbal content is a bit fractional, but there’s no mistaking the central thrust of things, as evident in the title, and in the baleful, malevolent eyes of the infant staring out at us from the cover. This is dark shit. I don’t know where Godzilla Black see themselves, in the grand continuum of not-mainstream rock music; there are certainly echoes of a great many interesting zones of creative practice, and given the great prog-thaw that has taken place in recent years, I have little difficulty in describing their music as …

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 …