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

Finger-picked arpeggios fall with the regularity and impersonal melancholy of rain, offset by a vocal delivery that is hesitant not in its phrasing, but in its timbre. The sound of this four-song EP is intimate, extremely close to the listener’s ear, and it is formed from the kind of performative gestures in which the proximity of the musician is most pronounced: this is sound as embodiment, its aesthetics rooted in an erotic of human frailty. Lyrically and melodically it is concerned with the concrete, with particulars, but it is an idea of the concrete that is as ephemeral as smoke and as fragile as eggshells – Calming River’s voice

Die Goldenen Zitronen – Flogging A Dead Frog (art-punk)

Formed at the inception of what would come to be known as the Hamburger Schule (from which they vehemently distance themselves), Die Goldenen Zitronen had their beginnings as an identifiably punk band, but a commitment to creative, aesthetic and political rigour has led them to a variety of stylistic positions, some quite avant-garde. Entertainment might be claimed as a touchstone of punk aesthetics, though, and in that sense, as well as in the overtly political character of many of the songs, it would seem fair to argue that this album of predominantly electronic New Wave/ avant-funk sounds is still clearly situated …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Abject and lonesome mid-fi folk, that drifts across the field of consciousness like a progession of washed-out, dusty photographs, before it becomes quite heavy and ominous towards the end of the album, and finishes with an unlikely cover of ‘Twerk’. One of Uhlich’s Bandcamp tags is ‘devotional’, and there is a sense of outsider ritual about this music, as though a set of the personal habits that make an individual were reified as doctrine: the songs are about something, certainly, but it feels like Uhlich is singing meaning to himself as much as he is singing meanings to us. Songs unfold at a steady pace, with static or slow …

Hobopope and the Goldfish Cathedral – Grunt Gullet Pogrom (pronk)

It’s tempting to say that the Hobopope project hasn’t been well documented enough, but I think I’m just saying that I wish Paul David Rhodes would write and record some more songs. This release, from a few years ago, brings together pretty much all the material that I’ve heard, in versions that I think can safely be regarded as definitive. It’s not easy to make much headway with a project like this. Few venues outside of major urban areas are going to want you to make a sound like this on their premises, it’s very hard to find musicians capable of playing such complex, abstract compositions, and although there’s a …

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 – Album Roundup

Golden Diskó Ship drop the listener immediately into a vast reverberant space, in which percussion thuds like a carpenter’s mallet and sweet vocal melodies drift tentatively into scene… Thus begins ‘These thoughts will never take shape’, and indeed there is barely time for the music’s forms to register in the ear before they shift into something else: we are presented with a kind of deconstructed pop song, in which elements are presented serially, in isolation… Until, eventually, around halfway through, after an upper register surf-guitar figure has been presented on the song’s conveyer belt, they come together…

The Domestics – Routine and Ritual (punk)

This is not music that’s meant to be engaged with as a text. It’s physical music, an onslaught of experience, that invites your participation or your absence. If its material impact has a politics, it’s a politics of action, a politics of fury, of atavistic solidarity and unmediated resistance. It’s music to enable the forging of many wills into one under the sacrament of alcohol; it offers a context where we can, in Public Enemy’s memorable phrase, party for our right to fight. But there is a lot more to Routine and Ritual than guitar noise: this is music with lyrics, and the lyrics are anything but unreflecting. The …

Reagan’s Polyp re-releases (satirical anti-rock)

When I’m asked to review a fistful of reissues I might ordinarily feel a moment or two of guilt at never having listened to the band before (which is usually the case, given my perversely idiosyncratic listening habits). Not so with Reagan’s Polyp, an obscure and wilfully unappetising band from Little Rock, Arkansas. Rather than going to some other place, where their brand of satirical, lyrically infantile, musically heterodox, avant-garde rock might have been appreciated by hipsters and bohemians, they stayed in Little Rock, released thirty-odd albums, earned predictable notices in the local music press (‘abusive …

Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita (avant-pop)

There are many ways to do anything. There are musicians that spend their entire career mining one small patch of stylistic territory, exhaustively plotting its possibilities, immersing themselves in its world, refining its vocabulary until their creative utterances are as idiomatic as the language of everyday life. Then there are those that reinvent themselves continually. Both approaches are equally valid (as if I was in any way qualified to tell anyone whether or not their work was valid!), and as far as I can tell, both are equally fertile. I know of many artists, especially in genres like jazz and folk, where great store is …

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 …

Bitter Fruit – It Gets Worse (noise rock)

This bunch of raucous, abrasive noise-mongers from Oakland CA specifically describe their music as ‘queer death rock’. That raises a couple of issues as a genre label. The first is that given that the sound of this record is something that makes sense in an established set of musical practices, what is it about the sound that makes it specifically queer? I’m not talking about the lyrics here, which are delivered with the kind of approach that makes recourse to a lyric sheet a prerequisite for any form of judgement or analysis, but about the stylistic and textural qualities of the recorded sound, and I have to say …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Idiom, style and musical history are important to all of the releases in this roundup, but to none more than to Gorgeous. To Ben Walker the question of style is one to be asked in respect of every song, in the same way as key and tempo, and one that should be answered with the same technical accuracy. There is a very sophisticated and erudite use of idiom at the centre of his creative practice, and his songs are crafted in thorough, rigorous detail, but they are nevertheless expressive rather than rhetorical. There is a refusal of any attempt to ‘persuade’ the listener, letting each song sink or …

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 …