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.

Chad VanGaalen/ Xiu Xiu – The Green Corridor # 02 – Split 12”

When two artists share a split release, there’s usually an immediately apparent reason for it, a close stylistic correspondence, or a specific creative contrast within the context of a broader similarity. Punk and hardcore bands often release splits together, as do sludge and stoner metal acts. So when two halves of a split release seem, on the face of it, to pursue radically divergent artistic agendas, it seems an invitation to consider each in the light of the other. The established practice of the split release almost compels the listener to read the two sets of sounds striking their cochlea as equivalent in some way …

Karda Estra – Weird Tales (chamber prog-psych)

Karda Estra occupies a fairly unique territory, not a million miles from what Gunther Schuller coined the term ‘Third Stream’ to describe, although, notwithstanding some audible nods toward its harmonic verticality, jazz is not the main constituent of its language. It’s rare that I find myself writing about music where the musicianship is as purposely transparent as it is here, but improvisation is not a feature of these sounds either, and the players are at pains to realise the compositions accurately and expressively without drawing attention to themselves. This is of course standard practice in the classical world, or rather, it is the ideology of classical performance …

Tom Slatter – Iron Bark (progressive rock/ steampunk)

It’s rare that something truly original comes my way, something that I can’t really put in a box with anything else. Tom Slatter presents me with music for which I can find some comparisons, certainly: there’s a nuanced, psychedelic experimentalism to his compositions, reminiscent of some twentieth century classical music, that relates to some artists that I’ve previously reviewed here, such as Knifeworld, or Karda Estra. But as an artistic totality, I can safely say I’ve never heard the likes of Iron Bark before.

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.

Shrine 69, Another Dead Hero, Meadows & Hobopope & The Goldfish Cathedral at The Northcroft Social Club, Sudbury, 20 May 2011 (metal/ pronk/ heavy rock)

The Northcroft seems to be going all out to turn itself into one of Sudbury’s busiest venues. They’ve been putting on a variety of local and regional acts from all areas of the musical spectrum, but tonight their upstairs room was hired out by some of the noisy bastards. The opening ceremony was provided courtesy of Hobopope & The Goldfish Cathedral, appearing in a duo configuration. HPATGC is Paul Rhodes’ name for some of the stuff he does, but he was accompanied by Ted Mint on guitar…

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.

Bing Ji Ling – Shadow To Shine (funk/ soul)

This is a record drenched in the seventies, literally dripping with honeyed, soulful, in-your-face, grinning disco lurve. I mean, look at the cover. Quinn Luke is a man who lives his creative convictions (or knows exactly how to give his audience the impression that he does). These songs are full of that wonderful fusion of the sexual and the spiritual that defined the best of the disco era.