‘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 …
Tag: psychedelic rock
Regal Worm – Use and Ornament (avant-prog)
‘Detail’ seems to be the watchword by which this album was conceived and constructed; I hesitate to say that it’s all about the arrangements, as it’s clearly about much more, but a conspicuously enormous amount of effort has gone into them. Ideas abound in every area, in an album which is clearly a paean to much of the best music that progressive rock has produced; stylistic cues come from many sources, including folk, jazz and sixties psych-pop, and melodic or harmonic devices are presented in a rapidly cycling kaleidoscope of nuanced affective conditions. However, it is in the constant, subtly modulated…
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
These Curious Thoughts – Building Mountains From The Ground (roots rock)
The internet is full of interesting long distance collaborations; since everyone got broadband, audio files have been flying back and forth like nobody’s business. Obviously digital music production is most amenable to this approach, but it’s equally feasible for an ensemble recording to be assembled from separate performances in the participants’ own studios/bedrooms/wherevers. Mixing, and particularly mastering, have often taken place at a remove from the recording process, but now that nobody has to shuttle physical media around it’s commonplace for low budget projects to go through those processes in far flung locations. Things have changed, a lot. These Curious Thoughts are a collaboration of a relatively unusual sort, however, at least as far as I’m aware; although …
Review Of The Year 2012, Part 2: 12 EPs
In previous years I’ve assembled my annual review solely from album length releases; it’s interesting to note that the vast majority of music I come across, whether I actively discover it or somebody sends it to me for review, is in something resembling album format (notwithstanding that most of it reaches me as a sequence of ones and zeros). However, I do receive EPs and singles, and some of the very best music I’ve heard this year has come my way in shorter releases. It’s clearly time I reflected this in my end of year review, and as it would seem strange to compare two track singles with seventy minute albums, I’ve decided to assemble my favourites in two parts …
Thumpermonkey – Sleep Furiously (progressive rock)
Injunctions to sleep in a particular manner crop up from time to time as album titles. Hope & Social’s last album length release was called Sleep Sound, which is perhaps the kind of sleeping to which most of us are accustomed; either that or badly. Furiously is another matter altogether: normally, a high fever is a prerequisite for such an approach to somnolence, although once, when I was eighteen, I dropped a tab of transcendentally strong acid immediately before going to sleep, and I have to say my repose was, if not precisely furious, decidedly frantic. Is Sleep Furiously a comparable sort of experience? Well, it’s definitely disorientating, and I don’t get the impression that helping their listeners to orient themselves is one of Thumpermonkey’s central priorities
Plum Flower Embroidery – Naki Bone Jangle (psychedelic)
I did a little bit of ‘research’ (a word that used to mean research, and now means believing the first thing you see on the internet), imagining that Naki Bone Jangle would turn out to refer to a ritual noise-maker made from bones by members of a native American tribe. Well, that may be the case, but I couldn’t find any reference to it. I could always have asked Richard Knutson to explain, but I think it’s worth trying to understand a recording as released; this one is enigmatic on many levels, and that is clearly a central plank of its meanings. Plum Flower Embroidery is a one man project, of the sort that I would almost certainly not have come across were it not for the way the internet has turned out…
Various Artists – Singles and EPs
In recent years the avant-garde fringes of metal have become one of the most fertile sites of musical creativity and invention; while my central musical inclinations might be towards other areas, such as jazz or folk, and while those areas certainly harbour some radically creative minds globally, the majority of music produced and performed locally to me is pretty conservative. Earthmass is one of several bands I have the opportunity to engage with directly (attending gigs, meeting the members, building an ongoing relationship as a music writer, etc.) that pursue a radical formal agenda, and really keep their eye on the ball creatively. There is no uncritical regurgitation of the tropes of heavy music here, no taking the language as given …
Astralfish – Far Corners (space rock)
Labeling this record as ‘space rock’, as I have above, is a bit like an American telling you that they’re Italian, or Polish or Armenian. I don’t have to write anything after the title, and I’m never trying to ascribe any particular set of characteristics when I do so, but it serves as a useful guide to those among my readers that are utterly convinced they have no interest in anything that could be labelled ‘metal’ for example, or ‘hip-hop’. That is, it serves a mainly negative purpose, because if you are likely to enjoy it, a genre label tells you virtually nothing about a piece of music. Far Corners is a space rock record in the way a fifth-generation suburban American realtor from Hackensack, New Jersey might be Irish.
Various Artists – You Got Your Punk in My Garage – The Best of the GaragePunk Hideout, Vol. 3 (punk/ garage)
This album is for sale through all the usual big online retailers, but it’s also available as a freebie to active members of the garage music fan community linked to above. It’s the third in an ongoing series, and let me tell you: if you are a fan of this kind of music it is an amazing bonus (since the GaragePunk Hideout is a superb site/ network anyway). Personally I’d be very happy to pay for this; hell, I’d pay just for the album artwork! Music featured in the series has ranged from very 1960s flavoured, jangly stuff, to thrashy, punky noise, right back to rock’n’roll and psychobilly…
Ports Of Call – Fractals (shoegaze/ dreampop)
Bass and drums provide Fractals with a spare and sturdy scaffold, from which they hang their shimmering banners of translucent, liquid sound. There are vocals, with audible lyrics, but for me they function similarly to the guitars, as a textural element: reverb returns are often separated in the mix from their sources, vocal or instrumental, but the effect is usually so wet, so expansive that it overrides the ‘literal’ dry sound. This is a music of soundscapes: it’s something of a cliché to talk about ‘visual’ music, and people often do so without being clear…
Karda Estra – New Worlds (psychedelic/ progressive/ chamber music)
This album opens with a strummed guitar chord, and an oboe. The oboe is an instrument not often featured in rock, jazz, popular or folk music, and it signals with its presence that we should prepare ourselves for a variety of ‘not often featured’ elements. There are some sounds of rock in here, electric bass, distorted guitar, drum sounds and synthesisers: but these elements take their places in a broader soundworld, as seats in the orchestra pit rather than swaggering stage performers.
Big Block 454 – Bells & Proclamations (folk-funk/ psychedelic rock)
Big Block 454, named for a 1970 Chevrolet engine, are one of the oddest bands I’ve encountered in a while. They are creatively out there, full of weird sounds and transgressive stylistic collisions, and yet they are, to me at least, accessible, pleasing, and decidedly danceable. Apparently they’ve been around a long while: well, it’s not surprising if you haven’t heard of them, because as good as they are, I can’t imagine any record label monkey having the first clue how to sell this stuff!
Knifeworld – Dear Lord, No Deal (psychedelic rock)
Kavus Torabi, Cardiacs guitarist, among many other things, originally pursued Knifeworld as a solo endeavour, but this EP marks the beginning of the project’s recorded life as a six piece band with a permanent membership. The initial release, Buried Alone: Tales of Crushing Defeat, had a particular sound, and a coherent one, from which this release is quite distinct, texturally at least. Dear Lord, No Deal has a denser, fuller sound, but it still pursues the same general aesthetic and formal agenda.