Various Artists – Album Roundup

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

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 …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

‘Let it be known’, begins the declamation with which Damon Locks opens the first of these two live sets: the immense complexity of the knowing we are invited to share soon becomes apparent. I come across a huge variety of music, much of it extremely creative, inventive, accomplished and unconventional, but rarely do I encounter anything on the sheer scale of Galactic Parables: Volume 1, or anything remotely as ambitious. The performing forces at each of the concerts from which the album was recorded are large but not vast, at ten and eight players respectively, but the creative scope of the music …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

The Stringers are a four-piece from Ontario, that plays rock music of the old school – which doesn’t mean that it’s ‘old-fashioned’, but that it’s pop music, god dammit! This is entertainment, with no pretensions to any kind of creative territory beyond that compass; all too often that can imply some kind of highly manufactured, overly polished and self-consciously vapid ‘product’, but this is all about melodies, grooves and the raw sound of musicians making it happen together. Crisp, tight performances are represented in an immediate, close-quarters production, through arrangements that evince a good understanding …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

There’s a gentle oddness to these songs, cradled in gleefully brutal drum machine sounds and fugal laminations of electric guitar ostinatos. The executioner of the latter is subtly ‘off’, in both pitch and articulation, contrasting the fascistic precision of the former, but colluding with it to efface the performer, along with any notion of their heroic ‘star status’, from the centre of the performance. This is music whose own production sets out to tell us that its author could readily be substituted by a rudimentary machine, or by some other random person; but the songs, and the gloomy disregard with which …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Mark Harrison and his very capable band (whose members include the extremely talented duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker) play a curiously English take on American roots music. Their stylistic materials mine the cracks between country blues and old time country music, continuing a UK tradition that began with skiffle and was nourished by the likes of Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and the pop-jug-band sounds of Canned Heat. There’s a sense when listening to American performers in such styles, particularly the older ones, that they are singing from beneath a heavy encrustation of …

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 …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Kibou Records is everything I talk about but don’t actually do. It’s a totally independent, DIY music label and online distributor, dedicated to uncompromising underground music, of the noisy punk variety. It’s basically the Revolution, as described by French anarchists The Invisible Committee, a parallel structure that is a challenge to the status quo simply by virtue of its existence. If everyone with music to distribute did this, and everyone bought their music from outfits like this, the corporate music industry would shrivel up and die. Of course the success of such an …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

In the best tradition of underground music, it’s not entirely clear what Milktoast Music is; probably not a label in the traditional sense. More likely a collective of closely related musical projects, I would imagine. This album includes tracks from four of the six acts listed on their website, with those by Richard Pickman in preponderance, and several credited to the label, which are presumably collaborative efforts. The music is humorous and wantonly bizarre, although also quite accessible, and peppered with science-fiction samples. In style, it echoes the timbres of chiptune, with retro digital synths and …

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 …

Skåglörds – Korea (doom/ electronica)

I don’t know what this has to do with Korea; no more do I know why doom metal (or sabbathcore as it was amusingly described by the label when Korea was submitted for review) represents the north, and electronica the south. I like some enigma in my music, so it’s not keeping me awake at night, and I’m reluctant to ascribe any definitively programmatic meanings to the music. What I think is really interesting about this album is that it juxtaposes two quite distinct creative approaches, and presents them as a single artistic utterance. Whatever meanings the listener might conclude are central to the work must …