Paragaté – Pattern Of Light (experimental)

Paragaté is a fluid ensemble; its two permanent members are Tim Risher and Tom De Plonty, both of whose names may be familiar to you from the reviews I have written over the past few years, but the ensemble has a number of other creators associated with it, and a history measured in decades. Earlier releases have featured a number of pieces credited to each man, as well as some credited to both of them, and some in which credit is shared with other collaborators. Pattern Of Light is a novelty, inasmuch as all but one of its eleven tracks are credited equally to Risher and De Plonty, the sole exception …

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 …

Abstractive Noise – of the Adder’s Bite (post-ambient)

Woman as symbol figures prominently in the conceptual scaffolding of this album; this is something about which I have certain reservations. ‘Woman’ has been employed as a metaphor for many things in the creative languages of men: the imaginative faculty, the creative spirit, material aspiration, fields of endeavour, country or native soil… the list goes on. These things have differences and similarities, but ‘woman’ is appropriated to them all by virtue of her femininity; ‘man’, in contrast, when employed as a symbol, simply means ‘human’, or ‘people’. The defining characteristic of ‘woman’ is her difference …

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 …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

My first exposure to Olds Sleeper was startling, and he’s yet to disappoint me, across four albums of his own and one collaboration with the beguiling Heidi Harris (not to mention the cigar-box guitar stuff he puts out as Jellyspine Jenkins). Using lo-fi production as a device to emphasise the pure materiality of his music-making, Olds Sleeper’s songwriting achieves a form of sincerity that can’t be contrived or dissembled; he gives voice to a particular form of American street-level experience, in a musical language precisely cognate with its cultural dialects. His songs speak from the soul of the alienated, hard- …

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 …

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…

Believers Roast presents The Exquisite Corpse Game

The game of Consequences has a long history, probably in the order of two centuries, but quite possibly longer. Back when parlour games were essential lubricants to the passage of time, a progress not demarcated by the dazzling increments of the media age, such diversions had a far more prominent role in culture, and could provide a touchstone to other, less frivolous activities. The Surrealists, a diverse creative group committed to the elision of distinctions between the absurd and the profound, between work and play, between dream and waking, found the non-sequiturs …

ZA! – Wanananai (experimental)

Post world-music is one term used to describe ZA! in their promotional materials; well, in the sense that such a term doesn’t rule out anything whatsoever, it’s not a bad characterisation! The music is experimental from start to finish, but it is the product of a process addressed directly to the business of music-making, in the same way that a completely conventional rock band or dance music producer would address themselves to it. Much experimental music emphasises the first term of that pair, which often produces interesting results, but could be criticised for placing the cart …

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 …