Michael Rother - Katzenmusik LP

Michael Rother - Katzenmusik LP (Groenland)

Our Review:

We'd assume that the majority of Stranded regulars are largely familiar with at least one of Michael Rother's projects. Whether it be his work with Kraftwerk, Neu!, Cluster, or Harmonia, Rother's contributions to the last 30 plus years of music are innumerable. Still, his solo work has been conspicuously absent from most write-ups and record shelves. Perhaps that's because the early '80s saw Rother in a bit of transition period from his kosmische glory days to a point where he embraced New Age with arms wide open.

On Katzenmusik, Rother moves more and more into New Age territory, mellowing out even further than on previous solo efforts. The blue sky, fluffy white clouds, and arcing jet-trail of the cover photo are well-evoked by the music inside. Twelve untitled, again all-instrumental tracks, with guitar and synth lines floating on air along to the tick-tock of Jaki's drumming.

Terry Allen - Lubbock (On Everything) 2xLP

Terry Allen - Lubbock (On Everything) 2xLP (Paradise Of Bachelors)

Our Review:

Lubbock (On Everything) is a sprawling double album from 1979 of some of the best alt-country-folk Texas had to offer. Recorded by Lloyd Manes who also plays pedal steel with a full-on backing band of Joe Ely and The Flatlanders, this is considered Terry Allen's masterpiece. Here he sets his eagle-eyed observations on the peculiarities of life in Lubbock, a small north Texas town that despite its remoteness, was home to a highly creative clan of artists, musicians and eccentrics. A key influence for the album and movie version of The Talking Heads' True Stories (David Byrne contributes liner notes to this reissue as well as Allen's wife), and the artist Jo Harvey Allen who played "The Lying Woman" in that film also sings harmony here. Over 21 tracks, Allen sets his dry lyrical wit on the art world, art collectors, threesomes, wolfmen and waitresses, and he contributes some of his most well-known songs such as "Amarillo Highway" and "New Delhi Freight Train," which was recorded by Little Feat two years earlier. The Flatlanders' able-backing provides the perfect musical atmosphere for the nuanced poignancy of Allen's gifted songwriting. Such a great record that we can't recommend enough. Plus, it's been remastered from the original analogue tapes, correcting pitch/tape speed inconsistencies evident on all prior versions.

Vivien Goldman - Resolutionary (Songs 1979-1982) LP

Vivien Goldman - Resolutionary (Songs 1979-1982) LP (Staubgold)

Our Review:

Perhaps best known as a journalist chronicling punk, reggae, and Afro-Carribean music since the early '80s, Vivien Goldman produced a handful of exceptionally good dub-punk / art-rock tunes with some very famous friends – notably John Lydon, Adrian Sherwood, Robert Wyatt, David Toop, and Viv Albertine of The Slits. Her very first foray was as one of the vocalists / lyricists for The Flying Lizards, and then she produced one hell of a single under the mentorship of the production team of Lydon and Sherwood, after that forming the theatrically inclined Chantage new wave duo with Eve Blouin. We've got all of those tracks from her early '80s days on this fantastic new Staubgold compilation, though it should be noted that she also recorded with Prince Far I before all of this and co-wrote tracks with Massive Attack and Moritz Von Oswald afterwards. The dub of "Private Armies" (featured here, in its slightly more sprightly vocal version) has been featured on a number of New Age Steppers collections, with its stark low-slung baselines and heavily flanged rhythms certainly cut from the same British dub production that delivered PiL's Metal Box and The Pop Group's Y. Goldman's "Laundrette," along with her two Flying Lizards cuts, embrace the taunting grooves of The Slits, whilst deconstructing the stereotypical gender roles of housework and other banalities left for women by society. The Chantage tracks shift the focus slightly away from a dub-punk and towards a ramshackle rocksteady, as if recorded in a Parisian cafe of absinthe drinkers. It all comes together as a remarkably good historical look into the British hybrids of punk, dub, and Afro-beat, snapped in vivid Kodachrome with Situationist smarts and feminist brashness.

Porest - Modern Journal Of Popular Savagery LP

Porest - Modern Journal Of Popular Savagery LP (Nashazphone)

Our Review:

Mark Gergis is one angry dude – and he has never had any qualms about making his audience squirm with the uncomfortable truths about living under the influence of America, with its messy politics, problematic foreign affairs and unsavory histories. Porest is the moniker that he has used for only a portion of his musical productions, as he also fronts the agit-prop Khmer-styled rock band Neung Phak and he's responsible for some of the very best collections from Sublime Frequencies (i.e. Cambodian Cassette Archives, Choubi! Choubi!, and of course Oman Souleyman, amongst many others). In the curation and context of all of those other records, Gergis constructs a viable alternative to what is marketed as "world music." With Porest, all the pleasantries that hang on those other productions are dropped in his naked expression of his "post-globalised hate pop, cabalistic text-to-speech drama and violent tape music against soapbox anthems and swirling barbed-wire psychedelia." The opening salvo to Modern Journal Of Popular Savagery is a ridiculous rap-battle via earnest radio-drama dialogue between Gergis and a sampled voice who constantly demands for Gergis' passport. He later parodies the politics of progressive liberals, who blindly leap into any revolutionary cause without any self-reflection or existential grounding and may cause considerable harm to places like Syria and Iraq. Humor always plays a part in the politics of Porest, even as the subject matter can be deadly serious. Modern Journal Of Popular Savagery counters the lyrically driven pieces with a number of approximations of Iraqi-pop and Indonesian fuzzed-out psychedelia. Given that Gergis is working with Peter Conheim and Alan Bishop on these recordings, one can easily locate the aesthetics between Negativland and Sun City Girls.

Moondog - The Viking of Sixth Avenue 2xLP

Moondog - The Viking of Sixth Avenue 2xLP (Honest Jon's)

Our Review:

In our minds, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century was a man with a long white beard and a viking helmet on his head - Louis Hardin (aka Moondog). Whether it was how he incorporated field recordings into his compositions, unleashed riveting vocal cannons or created confusional worlds of percussion that were light-years ahead of their time, he had such a singular touch and far reaching vision, it's no surprise he's an all time shop favorite!

While we love so many avant composers of the 20th century, there tends to be an undeniable academic angle to their work which sometimes leaves us a bit cold. Moondog on the other hand employed such a playful approach to his work. Whether he was building his own instruments, creating new scales, experimenting with field recordings, inserting fun wordplay into otherwise austere pieces, you get this amazing sense of playfulness, childlike wonder and a totally unique strangely sophisticated kind of joy. The outsider that he was, Moondog answered to no one. No movement, no school, no tradition. He took his love, appreciation and deep running knowledge of classical music, his poetic mind, and his free spirit and created sounds that were like nothing of its time. Losing his eyesight at an early age he began writing scores in Braille. Like most truly special artists, he spent much of his life in relative obscurity, he spent much of the 50's and 60's on New York street corners where he would sell his poems, record the sounds of daily life, and soak in all aspects of his atmosphere. Most New Yorkers just thought they were walking by some crazy homeless guy in a viking costume, they had no idea they were passing one of the most brilliant musical minds of the last century. Thanks to the help of some of his big fans like Janis Joplin, who covered All Is Loneliness on her first outing with Big Brother Holding Company, he got a record deal with Columbia and eventually recorded with the London Symphony, and then spent the last 20+ years of his life in Germany where a rich family supported him while he continued to make music, up until the time of his death. His influence runs so deep and continues to spread among the musical underground, but also slowly but surely permeates into mainstream music. There is talk of a tribute album coming soon, in the '90s many hip-hop and electronic producers sampled his works and many avant electronic folks were definitely influenced by his strange musicks, including Mr. Scruf, DJ Shadow and Aphex Twin. Antony and The Johnsons have been doing an amazing version of All is Loneliness in their live show, and you can hear echoes of Moondog's sounds in everyone from Rhys Chatham, to Jon Brion, to Steve Reich, to Philip Glass and even The Residents. We urge you to let these 36 songs introduce you to what will no doubt be a life long love affair with one of our favorite musical minds of all time!

Maki Asakawa - s/t 2xLP

Maki Asakawa - s/t 2xLP (Honest Jon's)

Our Review:

Wow, were we ever blown away by this release! Maki Asakawa may be known to Japanese aficionados of cultish '70s blues and jazz, translating American blues standards into Japanese, and striking a defiant diva-ish figure like Nina Simone or Billie Holiday, but she was a total surprise to us. She recorded and performed up until 2010 where she died of heart failure right before a live performance.

Her songs take you to that inner place of deep complex moods. Keiji Haino is reportedly a big fan, so that should tell you something. Honest Jon's has done a great service by compiling this great survey of her early work from 1969-1986 that showcases a range of moods from torch songs to groovy psych jazz to some lovely haunting chanson invoking everything heady, heavy, and slow. The bluest of the Blues. So highly recommended!!!

John Lennon/Yoko Ono - Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions LP

John Lennon/Yoko Ono - Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions LP (Secretly Canadian)

Our Review:

The most radical of provocative sound/art statements from John Lennon and Yoko Ono wouldn't arrive until the release of Unfinished Music Vol. 2: Life With The Lions. Opening side one is the sidelong "Cambridge 1969," a barrage of feed-backing guitar squalls and Ono's primal scream vocalizations that towers with a majestic enduring intensity on the same par as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Ono hadn't quite explored the long-form scream performance on tape before and "Cambridge 1969" set the stage for later works with The Plastic Ono Band.

The second side is even stranger if somewhat less intense. "No Bed For Beatle John" is a spoke-sung lullaby intoned by Yoko in a dadaist sound poetry vein describing Lennon's day to day activities as reported by the media, followed by field recordings of baby's heartbeats when Yoko was pregnant with Sean Lennon, an extended silent piece, and finally "Radio Play," a sound piece likely made with what sounds like a guitar cable being pushed in and out of a loud amp, or a radio dial oscillating between fields of static. Perhaps not so much a musical statement, as a concrete document of the resultant process of an undefined mutual engagement inspired by John Cage, Guy De Bord, and Fluxus aesthetics, the Unfinished Music series still remain as heartily curious documents of the uprooting of standard conventions of just about any kind.

Jordan De La Sierra - Gymnosphere: Song Of The Rose 2xLP

Jordan De La Sierra - Gymnosphere: Song Of The Rose 2xLP (Numero Group)

Our Review:

Boy, has this reissue been a long time coming! Seeing that it's been a holy grail for new age collectors and long-form music heads long before the new age revival began revving up nearly a decade ago, it's surprising how long it has actually taken. We in fact have been listening to our ripped mp3's for the past few years courtesy of Greg Davis's incredible (and deeply missed) new age tape music blog, Crystal Vibrations. But now Jordan De La Sierra's masterpiece from 1977 has been given the deluxe reissue treatment it deserves, and for the very first time has been released as it was meant to be. Four gloriously long form well-tuned piano tracks (one per side for the lp, 2 for each cd), that hypnotically spiral and cascade in delirious transcendent clouds of chordal clusters and glacial repetitions. Recorded and edited from hours of sessions, the subsequent tape recordings were then taken to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and taking advantage of the space's unique acoustics and 30 second natural delay, played back and rerecorded as they transmitted throughout the deep resonant space.

Hailing from California's Central Valley and later influenced by Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Pandit Pran Nath as well as teachings from his spiritual explorations in India, De La Sierra wanted to take his classical music training to a different place when he was granted a scholarship at San Francisco's Conservatory of Music where he immersed himself in the avant-garde and performed works by John Cage, Robert Ashley, and Earl Brown. He eventually moved into Project Artaud right here in our own Mission District where he worked with small ensembles of like minded artists and musicians. His spiritual curiosity led him everywhere and under the tutelage of Pandit Pran Nath, to composing music in India. But he eventually worked his way back to the Bay Area, where he met up with Stephen Hill who ran the legendary radio program Hearts in Space on KPFA, who championed De La Sierra's music and led him to the fledgling Bay Area label Unity Records, which released Gymnosphere, but not without a few hiccups. Poorly managed and hemorrhaging money, the label ditched the planned release of a double lp by De La Sierra complete with booklet of Indian inspired drawings and poems and instead only released the first half on one LP. The process had taken so long that by the time of the release, De La Sierra had moved onto other projects, one of them forming the Dylanesque folk ensemble The Jemstone Band. Gymnosphere sank into obscurity.

So now The Numero Group has restored the original release to its originally intended glory, including a full catalog of drawings, poems and liner notes, housed in an embossed outer sleeve with a tantric design. Beautifully packaged, this long awaited reissue has long influenced many modern day soundmakers like James Blackshaw, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Gregg Kowalsky. Fans of Iasos, Lubomyr Melnyck, Ariel Kalma, Anton Batagov or any of the musicians mentioned above, this is essential!

Harmonia - Musik von Harmonia  LP

Harmonia - Musik von Harmonia LP (Groenland)

Our Review:

A record with one of our favorite album covers – from probably the best kosmiche supergroup ever – reissued on vinyl once again. Called the "world's most important rock group" by Brian Eno, Harmonia consisted of Neu founder, Michael Rother and Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius of Cluster. Michel Rother, after contributing to Cluster's breakthrough record, Zuckerzeit, which heralded a new direction in sound from their earlier dark and cavernous analog synthscapes to a more pastorally melodic and motorik driven percussive vibe, decided to take a breather from Neu. He moved into Cluster's newly built studio in the German countryside where they began collaborating on a more combined sound. While each member still continued to focus on their own main projects Harmonia was never considered a sideline affair, recording two stellar albums plus a series of recordings with Brian Eno that didn't see the light of day until twenty years later.

Connecting the aesthetics of Pop and Minimalism, the first Harmonia album is a product of their source bands but with a fresh twist on the motorik ideal. Less clinical than Kraftwerk, less funky than Can, each member's multi-instrumentalist abilities are employed in a variety of approaches at once playful and murky, steady and mechanical, using electronic beats, distorted rhythms, warm keyboard shimmers, drifting piano, and gliding electric guitars. It's no wonder Brian Eno was a fan. Fans of Boards of Canada, Susumu Yokota and electronica-heads of all types should check this out too. They even coined the term "hausmusik!"

Cluster & Eno - s/t LP

Cluster & Eno - s/t LP (Bureau B)

Our Review:

This is one of our favorite albums, in the first of two collaborations between art-rock genius / ambient pioneer Brian Eno and Krautrock electronics legends Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius aka Cluster! On it, they're joined by guests Asmus Tietchens and Can's Holger Czukay, and construct warm, organic instrumentals utilizing both acoustic instruments and analog synths. This is soft and mellow and melodic but at the same time these songs are no push-overs, however gentle.

Carla Dal Forno - You Know What It's Like LP

Carla Dal Forno - You Know What It's Like LP (Blackest Ever Black)

Our Review:

Carla Dal Forno's solo debut emerges on the heels of her work fronting the bleary art-pop outfits F Ingers and Tarcar, both of whom also have releases on the seminal Blackest Ever Black imprint. She's a liminal songwriter, often highlighting the space between the decentered, oblique elements. The songs economically plink through her spare instrumentation and suspend themselves in a chilly vamping of 4AD ethereal-dub atmospherics. Throughout the album, her arrangements spin through collapsed basslines, sad-girl piano notes and the slow-motion whirr of a drum machine here and there. As instrumentals, these recall the strange interludes of fumbled objects and spectral half-melody that dot Swell Maps albums. Yet, it is her voice that is the key to the success of You Know What It's Like. She spools that voice in a deadpan cooing with near monotone delivery, yet it's disarmingly beautiful. Dal Forno's gossamer pop is at its best on tracks like "Fast Moving Cars" and "What You Gonna Do Now?" There, she effortlessly channels the A.C. Marias/Dome sci-fi ballads of psychic disengagement amidst languid reverberations and satellite flicker of minimalist electronica.

Nocturnal Emissions - s/t 2xLP

Nocturnal Emissions - s/t 2xLP (Mannequin)

Our Review:

This eponymous recording is an impressive anthology into the broad history of Nocturnal Emissions, which started as an oblique electronic project, immolating at first with an industrial fury and later gliding into supple ambient soundscapes. Nocturnal Emissions was birthed in 1980 by Nigel Ayers and Caroline K who also both ran the Sterile Records, which released highly influential records by Lustmord, M.B., SPK as well as many of the seminal Nocturnal Emissions albums.

This historical document tracks through the many impressive albums of the '80s, including Tissue Of Lies, Viral Shedding, the band's masterpiece Drowning In A Sea Of Bliss, Songs Of Love And Revolution, Spiritflesh and Stoneface. Nocturnal Emissions' earliest works are creeping mutations of primitive electonica implode into audio collages of overblown noise, distorted media cut-ups, and tape loops. Upon the adoption of more gear and technical prowess, the band began to embrace minimal-wave rhythms while keeping to their noise bursts and dead-eyed tonalities. By the late '80s, Ayers had re-invented Nocturnal Emissions through the strategies of ritualized ambient composition through accretions of loops cast in echo and delay, not dissimilar to the equally hermetic projects :zoviet*france: and Cranioclast.

Hiroshi Yoshimura - Music From Nine Postcards LP

Hiroshi Yoshimura - Music From Nine Postcards LP (Empire Of Signs)

Our Review:

We've experienced a flutter of essential early 80's Japanese reissues the past couple years, and now Spencer Doran's imprint Empire of Signs may have just dropped the most obscure and best so far. Recorded in 1982 Hiroshi Yoshimura's Music For Nine Post Cards was created to be "environmental music" also known as "kankyo ongaku" in Japan, and the same phrase used to describe Brian Eno's Ambient 1-4 series, which was released four years prior.

It would be convenient to listen to a small sample of this record and categorize it as background muzak. The album's concept is very similar to Eno's Music For Aiports, but compositions are stripped down and much shorter than anything that appears in the Ambient series.

A keyboard and a Fender Rhodes are the only instruments featured on this record. Yoshimura seamlessly overlays a tactile presence of the musician's hand onto dreamy overtones creating an ethereal ambience to the album. Yoshimura's slow, gentle, and soulful keys throughout leads the listener into intimate and poetic realms of interpretation. For fans of K. Leimer, Midori Takada, Woo, Nuno Canavarro, Badalamenti's Twin Peaks and Brian Eno's ambient series.

Look Blue Go Purple - Still Bewitched 2xLP

Look Blue Go Purple - Still Bewitched 2xLP (Flying Nun)

Our Review:

Look Blue Go Purple blossomed in Dunedin, New Zealand alongside many of the seminal Flying Nun bands (The Chills, The Clean, Bailter Space, etc.) of the mid-'80s. This quintet featured an impressive line-up of eccentric-pop ladies some of whom earned considerable credibility in their other projects. Denise Roughan went on to front the brilliantly shambolic 3Ds, Kathy Bull soon found herself on Xpressway and Norma O'Malley later founded Chug. But here in Look Blue Go Purple, the sound was very much of the quintessential bittersweet jangle-pop. Their strummed minor chords on multiple guitars gave further credence to the aphorism that everybody who bought a Velvet Underground album also started their own band. The vocal harmonies from Roughan, O'Malley and Kath Webster spiral around the rough and ready numbers float with an ethereal haunt that countered the laconic urgency of the arrangements. While Look Blue Go Purple were an all-women band and immensely inspired by the DIY prowess of The Slits and The Raincoats, they were irked to be lumped into the discourse of gender politics. No mere token chicks playing rock and roll with their boyfriends, Look Blue Go Purple were a great band that were prescient what came from Lush and Galaxie 500 and even the Ride-inspired shoegaze band Blind Mr. Jones (thanks to both bands exemplary use of the flute as an accompanying instrument).

The band produced three EPs for Flying Nun in the span of a couple years, then called it quits in 1988. All of the original EPs had become highly collectible; and this anthology marks their first collective return to vinyl.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree LP

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree LP (Bad Seed Ltd)

Our Review:

Death and murder have long weighed heavily in Nick Cave's cautionary tales and allegorical anthems, but on the Skeleton Tree, such themes strike very close to home. In 2015, Cave's son Arthur died at the age of 15, falling off a cliff outside of Brighton, England. Cave and the Bad Seeds had yet to embark on the production of this album, though Cave had written much of the material that would get fleshed out in the studio when this tragic event happened. Knowing that he'd be confronted with questions about his son's death upon the release of the album, Cave and the band opted to film the making of the album under the directorial guidance of filmmaker Andrew Dominik. That film One More Time With Feeling was released at the same time the album to considerable critical acclaim. As for Skeleton Tree, the album is unsurprisingly a somber affair, laden with a grief that's weighty even for a Nick Cave outing. Cave's voice and piano are the central figures in this song cycle, curled into southern Gothic laments with his baritone stripped bare of all the bombast that he brought to The Birthday Party revealing considerable grief and sadness. Cave's vibrato on the title track seems to barely contain his tears, and the rumbling arrangement for "Anthrocene" sounds like a sustained earthquake as the emotional quicksand upon which Cave attempts to ground his song and by extension himself. Profound and heartbreaking.

Harry Bertoia - Clear Sounds / Perfetta LP

Harry Bertoia - Clear Sounds / Perfetta LP (Sonambient)

Our Review:

Harry Bertoia came to the research and development of sound sculptures through the success of his furniture design. The chairs he crafted for Knoll in the '50s were fashioned from simple grids of steel rods molded into ergonomic forms. These became iconic of the mid-century modern aesthetic, still beloved by many to this day. By the early '60, Bertoia turned his attention full-time to sculpture using many of the same types of steel rods from his furniture, often stacking and bundling these in geometric shapes. Through the use of these rods in both furniture and sculpture, he became intimately familiar with the sounds of his materials banging and clattering together. Thus, he began producing sculptures that were intended to make sound by affixing parallel rods of to a soundboard, harnessing the resonant shimmer and glisten of his material. These sound sculptures proliferated in his large barn of a studio, with Bertoia tinkering with the possibility of recording these sculptures in the context of composed interventions. These sounds are haunted and ethereal with lengthy acoustic decay on the metallic timbres, showcasing a complexity of sustained tone that were rarely matched outside the electro-acoustic drones of Organum and Andrew Chalk. Throughout the '70s, he self-published 11 albums under his own Sonambient imprint, all of which had been reissued through Important on a CD box set earlier this year.

Somanbient unearths two previously unpublished recordings from the Bertoia archive, with "Clear Sounds" dating from 1973 and "Perfetta" from 1971. Both pieces are emblematic of the Bertoia sound: lush, harmonic passages of glistening tones that billow, collapse and dissolve as manifestations of organic yet hallowed sound. A necessary rediscovery to one of the great American sound sculptors of the 20th Century.

Felicia Atkinson - Hand In Hand 2xLP

Felicia Atkinson - Hand In Hand 2xLP (Shelter Press)

Our Review:

Hand In Hand begins and ends with the support of two stately institutions of avant-garde electronic music. The French polyglot Félicia Atkinson began composing this album while in residence at EMS in Stockholm in 2016; and upon completion of the work, she exhibited a seven hour extended version the following year at GRM in Paris. Lucid, yet cracked, Hand In Hand emerges as an enchanting fever-dream of telepathic thought, disconnected desire and acute emotion which all expand from a myriad of appropriated and detourned texts.

In years past she first began recording under the moniker Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier, whose droning plainsongs paralleled those of Natural Snow Buildings and Motion Sickness Of Time Travel. The somnolent ambience of her first fruits has gradually slipped away amidst an intimate, idiosyncratic hybrid of spoken text, deconstructed electronica and hypnotic abstractions. Where there once were songs buried under six feet of snow, there are now asymmetrical sounds upon which balance Atkinson's sibilant whisperings in English. She quotes wholesale from J.G. Ballard, Phillip K. Dick, architectural manuals, instructions on caring for house plants and texts of her own construct. Amidst the elegantly dismal arrangements for rhodes organ motifs (think Dirty Harry) and the filagrees of spluttered waveform table cycles, these texts hang a constellations in the night sky. Infinitely detailed references with their contexts voided through the power of the razor blade. Brilliant.

Colin Newman - Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish LP

Colin Newman - Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish LP (Sentient Sonics)

Our Review:

The strength of 1980's A-Z particularly impressed Ivo Watts-Russell who quickly invited Colin Newman to join his erstwhile bandmates Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis on the burgeoning 4AD roster. Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish stands as Newman's only true solo outing, him alone shouldering writing, performance and production (save for Robert Gotobed's "backing drums" on "Fish 9"). A collection of instrumental pieces offered as the soundtrack to an imaginary movie, a formal conceit with particular caché in the wake of Eno, Fish is an exercise in patient accretion, synthesized polyrhythms and wordless vocal chants braided into short avant-pop airs that emphasize the importance of detail and texture in Newman's body of work, regardless of the name under which it appears.

Clara Mondshine - Luna Africana LP

Clara Mondshine - Luna Africana LP (The Great Thunder)

Our Review:

OH YES!!! We've been intrigued by this artist & album ever since seeing mention of it in a useful reference book we found called New Sounds: A Listener's Guide To New Music, published in 1987. One might hope for Clara Mondshine to be among the rare female krautrock composers, but no, in fact Clara Mondshine was the pseudonym or project name for a man named Walter Bachauer, a radio director and journalist as well as composer and musician. His krautrock pedigree does extend back to the ‘70s when he played in Peter Michael Hamel's excellent improvising acoustic/ethnic ensemble, Between. As a solo artist, he released three albums under the Clara Mondshine moniker, starting with this one, Luna Africana, in 1981. (Perhaps he would have made more records, but he sadly passed away in 1989.)

Mondshine's music on Luna Africana is DIY cosmic electronica, 'Berlin School' style, made with analog synths and other probably fairly lo-tech, lo-fi electronic gear. Mondshine's repetitive machine mesmerism is super droney and trippy, and almost playful too. These all-instrumental space-outs also sometimes having a touch of ethnic/world music to them as well (a la Between). This is also another example of something at the intersection of krautrock and new age. Hence titles, once translated into English, like "Raga Of The Rising Planet" and "Harp Of The Amazons." On one track, delightful melodic figures repeat over equally charming pulsing patterns of motorik rhythm, followed by a more atmospheric excursion into the outer space drone-zone on the next, and then it's back to relaxing runs of gentle tones over cyclic bleep-bleep-bloop, wreathed in whips of drone. What's not to like about that? Definitely for fans of Cluster, Kraftwerk and A.R. & Machines, among others.

Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas LP

Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas LP (4AD)

Our Review:

Heaven Or Las Vegas - the 1990 album that marked the creative peak of this ethereal and influential British trio - gets a proper remastered vinyl reissue and it has never sounded better.

This was the last album the band did for indie stalwart 4AD of which the band had a long, genre-defining relationship with throughout the eighties, before they headed for major label territory. The sound had noticeably more polish, sparkle, and shimmer in its production than anything previous, introducing them to a whole new audience. Also very noticeable was that the lyrics of singer Elizabeth Fraser contained actual words instead of the wordless glossolalia that had become one of the band's hallmarks. Not that anyone could really divine any coherent narrative from the lyrics, still, these were big changes for a band that seemed so far removed from outside influences and popular trends. They were really going for something larger here as evidenced in the title, and at the time, it seemed sadly like it was the end of an era, and perhaps it actually was. Yet, we have to say, this record has really grown on us over the years and eventually became one of our favorites. The music swoops and floats as if conjured by the wings of the most lovely and magical birds. Somehow it's at once immensely majestic, deeply comforting and sweetly infectious. Robin Guthrie's glistening guitars and Fraser's voice spiral together effortlessly while Simon Raymonde forms waves of regal bass lines that anchor the proceedings. And its influence stretches far and wide into the ethereal-pop sound of so many recent bands from the past couple of years. Perhaps the band's most fully realized and strongest release in a string of incredible records. Beautiful and highly recommended!

Ata Kak - Obaa Sima LP

Ata Kak - Obaa Sima LP (Awesome Tapes From Africa)

Our Review:

Wow! This is one of the most ecstatically strange recordings of hip hop dance music we've heard in quite awhile and it is no wonder that its elusive existence was the spark that inspired Brian Shimkovich's Awesome Tapes From Africa blog (and subsequent label) a decade ago. After years of searching for the man behind the music and eventually getting permission for the reissue, Awesome Tapes' hard work does not go unnoticed on this left-field reissue.

Hailing from Ghana, Ata Kak Yaw Atta-Owusu released this cassette in 1994, an awesome tape indeed of homegrown African Hip-house - a hybrid genre of high energy disco, b-boy hip hop and off-kilter rap-singing, that we weren't sure even existed. Only 50 tapes were originally made and out of them, only 3 sold, making its rediscovery that so much more remarkable. Made with a synthesizer, a 12 track recorder and Notator Atari software, Obaa Sima is like no African hip hop we've heard before. Tinny drum machines, fast-paced babble-rapping, helium voiced back-up vocals, infectious bass grooves and a beamed-in-from-outer-space soulfulness that somehow makes this all work. Seriously, it's as much fun as the craziest Bollywood disco stuff. Get in on this party train! Super recommended!!

Roberto Cacciapaglia - Sei Note in Logica LP+CD

Roberto Cacciapaglia - Sei Note in Logica LP+CD (Mirumir)

Our Review:

Released in 1979, Roberto Cacciapaglia's second release, Sei Note In Logica, embraces his minimal classical leanings. While his first album, The Ann Steel Record, also from that same year is a retro-future pop album Sei Note In Logica is an avant-garde systems composition for voices, orchestra and computer. He takes a six note melodic phrase and runs it through every possible musical combination with a choir of female vocalists (including the processed spoken voice of Ann Steel) and the instrumentation of marimbas, strings, woodwinds and computer-based electronics. Its emphasis on repetition and rhythm puts Cacciapaglia rightfully in a more well known circle of minimalist composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley. The album makes for a beautifully epic piece of economic means. Recorded in two parts, this vinyl reissue includes a cd of the vinyl recording plus a bonus version of the acoustic version of the piece with the ensemble without the computer derived enhancements and Ann Steel vocal. Highly Recommended!

The Sound - Jeopardy LP

The Sound - Jeopardy LP (1972)

Our Review:

The story goes that The Sound should have been huge – as big as any number of successful post-punk outfits like The Cure or The Fall or Echo & The Bunnymen – but for reasons seem to baffle most everybody, they didn't find that success. Frontman Adrian Borland cut his teeth in the 1976 punk frenzy in a project called the Outsiders; but grew dissatisfied with the amphetamine trad-rock that punk was becoming. The Sound formed around Borland's increasingly complicated songwriting, following a similar art-punk route that Howard DeVoto took after leaving The Buzzcocks to start the equally adventurous Magazine.

Jeopardy was the first album for The Sound, whose complex pop-punk was built around Borland's nervously chiming guitars and engaging hooks that paralleled those from The Cure's mod-pop debut Three Imaginary Boys, the theatrical bellowings of Juilan Cope's The Teardrop Explodes and of course Magazine. This album was recorded roughly, supposedly for less than 800 British pounds; and the urgency (or panic) of getting everything to tape quickly works well with these songs. The Sound embellish a number of their new wave / punk tunes with glammy synthesizer melodies that harken back to Roxy Music and an occasional sax blurt for good measure; but it's Borland who passionately drives this band, one that should have been heard back then ... and right now.

Roe Enney - Glare LP

Roe Enney - Glare LP (Root Strata)

Our Review

In a word, Roe Enney is cryptic. So much so, that she could be actually be a hologram or an android's dream or a ball of ectoplasm half-materialized between this world and the next. Her smattering of cassette recordings disappeared as quickly as the were announced, with those lucky enough to hear them to always refer to them in hushed, reverent tones, lest the physical copies blink themselves out of existence.

Without the knowledge of her cassette recordings, Glare may seem a spartan production of vaporously deconstructed post-punk electronica, but these are considerably fleshed out from what she had previously produced. Her songs all lumber with a narcoleptic plod through ultra primitive drum machines and asynchronous electronic sequences as she sings her monotone lullabies and lurches upon bass. It makes for an eerie, emotionally detached atmosphere that harkens to the grim simplicity of Dark Day's no wave electronics, Carla Dal Forno's equally narcotized songwriting and even The Cure's oft forgotten instrumental mind-fuck Carnage Visors.

Certainly to be this one of this reviewer's favorite recordings produced in 2017.

Sonic Youth - EVOL LP

Sonic Youth - EVOL LP (Goofin')

Our Review:

Evol – the fourth album by Sonic Youth – came out in 1986, and marked the debut of baby-faced SY drummer Steve Shelley. With Shelley's penchant for motorik rhythms and controlled velocity, the band began a trilogy of records that comprise what are arguably the three strongest records of their catalog: Evol, Sister, and Daydream Nation. Up until then, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and Lee Ranaldo had cycled through a number of percussionists with varying degrees of success. Shelley's ability to handle the pop-punk grooves and the avant-garde tumble with equal aplomb provided the foundation for Sonic Youth to begin to flower into the avant-pop iconoclastic band that we now know and love today. The album's highlights are numerous – "Tom Violence," "Starpower," "Expressway To Yr Skull" (probably, the best shorthand descriptor for a song, an attitude, a state of mind, a philosophy that could be distilled from Sonic Youth) – all of which are produced through a graceful dissonance of the amazing slipstream of noise and melody, atomized well beyond their punk-as-fuck origins but never far from a pop-crush chorus. Sonic Youth's omnivorous appetite for pretty much every form of music – Madonna, Glenn Branca, La Monte Young, Crime, Public Enemy, The Carpenters, Destroy All Monsters, etc. – was remarkably ahead of its time. For Sonic Youth, the intake of so many forms and their ability to synthesize such disparate elements was seen as a microcosm / macro-explosion of the Lower East Side as a wholesale form of arte povera. But some 30 years later, Evol is the kind of record that is expected for the contemporary audience, whereby every artist is supposed to know everything that came before and is completely aware of everything that is going on anywhere in the world. Logistical improbabilities of that being actualized by any current practitioner, Sonic Youth were able to see into the future beginning with Evol; and they achieved something that probably can't be replicated in the contemporary lens of social media. Here, punk rock has been rechristened as the combine, the assemblage, the collage – all of this goes into one of their legitimate masterpieces with a pitch-perfect sense of irony to match their non-pitch perfect anti-tunings. So what the fuck does all this mean? Just buy this goddamn record if you haven't already got it.

Low - The Exit Papers LP

Low - The Exit Papers LP (Temporary Residence Ltd.)

Our Review:

Duluth, Minnesota's Low are well into their 3rd decade of output and are one of the longest running and most consistently interesting indie bands – well, ever. Originally released in 2000 as a limited edition CD, The Exit Papers is the imagined soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist. Sparse even by Low's standards, quietly experimental and hauntingly beautiful, the album consists of 6 untitled pieces; mostly instrumental with only a smattering of wordless vocals. When you hear Low like this, stripped down to its instrumental core, you can hear more clearly just how massive an influence they must have had on the 21st century output of labels like Temporary Residence Ltd. and Kranky and artists such as Explosions In The Sky and Grouper. Released on vinyl now, for the first time ever – to help Temporary Residence Ltd. celebrate their 20th anniversary – The Exit Papers is an essential album by Low from one of their creative peaks (recorded in between the now-classic titles, Secret Name and Things We Lost In The Fire).

Harmonia - Deluxe LP

Harmonia - Deluxe LP (Groenland)

Our Review:

Newly reissued on vinyl: Harmonia's 2nd album, from 1975, Deluxe. Although we loved Harmonia's first album, Musik Von Harmonia, Deluxe is, dare we say, even better!! Made up of Michael Rother from Neu! and Moebius and Roedelius from Cluster, on Deluxe they are joined on a few songs by Mani Neumeier from Guru Guru, making the line up on this record a kosmiche supergroup of epic proportions! While the first record was tipped in its balance towards the Cluster side of things in terms of sound and the improvised process in which it was made, Deluxe has more of a Neu! feel as the tracks are more composed and song oriented, and for the first time contain vocal elements. Plus the motorik grooves are more rocking, with a real drum kit used more often than the drum machines creating a pulsating drive on par with Neu! 75, recorded that same year. But that's not to say Deluxe doesn't have its Cluster moments, as the two final tracks bring us down into some beautiful pastoral territory with the sounds of a stream with ducks and frogs near the Cluster studio in Forst can be heard amongst the warm and percolating analog synths. An essential.

David Lynch & Alan R. Splet - Eraserhead OST LP+7"+Book

David Lynch & Alan R. Splet - Eraserhead OST LP+7"+Book (Sacred Bones)

Our Review:

Here's the soundtrack to David Lynch's infamous, career defining early cult film Eraserhead. It's a work so claustrophobic, nightmarish, perverse, anxiety ridden, bleak and black humor heavy that it continues to this day to be unsurpassed in many strange and wonderful ways. Many movie soundtrack are just glorified rock compilations. Not this one! In Eraserhead, Lynch began working with sound designer Alan Splet, who followed Lynch throughout his career, with both fully aware that sound, noise and silence were an intrinsic part to constructing the film. Filled with intrusive industrial scrapes and discomfiting drones, the soundtrack to Eraserhead unquestionably plays an integral role in brewing up the unsettling atmospheres that Lynch navigates with an unchartered dream logic. Unfriendly cold sweat ambiance, prickly electrical charges, choked guttural gurgles, distant echoes of carnival organ melodies and dialogue snippets lurch in and out of focus. And of course the out of the grey dankness emerges the Lady in the Radiator's "In Heaven (Everything Is Fine)," as sung by Lynch himself with his peculiar, signature falsetto. Long been a cult classic soundtrack, not just a cult classic film, for a reason. The 7" features tune "Pete's Boogie" (written by Lynch and Peter Ivers) which was unreleased up until the Sacred Bones reissue.

Eliane Radigue - Opus 17 2xLP

Eliane Radigue - Opus 17 2xLP (Alga Marghen)

Our Review:

The French minimalist Eliane Radigue studied electro-acoustic composition, beginning in the late '50s under the tutelage of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. By the end of the next decade, her research lead her to investigate the possibilities of electric feedback as a principle source material in composition. Opus 17 marked the final composition in her feedback studies, one that she had finished prior to a year-long tenure in New York in 1970. Then and there, she met Rhys Chatham who cited this piece in particular as the touchstone for him to begin his storied career of quicksilver minimalism through sheer volume and sonic density. In the liner notes, Chatham recalls: "One day, while gossiping, she invited me to her loft, which was just on the corner. She had me listen to a piece composed in France; the piece called Opus 17. What I heard changed to course of my life as a composer. That piece, that impressive source of inspiration, gave the impression of being in a grand cathedral, both for the sensation of immensity of being in such a large cathedral, as for the effect of being so close to God."

It should be noted that Radigue was about to embark on a series of works that would stand as the most recognizable of her career, notably, the Adnos trilogy. Through all of the work in the '70s, Radigue employed the ARP synthesizer as the instrument, slowly rotating with graceful steeliness through layered tone and frequency. Many of these same compositional techniques are at work in Opus 17, made all the more malleable through the unpredictability of feedback. Hypnotic yet slightly disquieting, Radigue's Opus 17 glides upon nuanced patterns that evolve, transform and mutate very slowly upon her time suspension compositions, dappled with a grizzled energy. The work predates the equally iconic glassine feedback works of Arcane Device in the late '80s and Toshimaru Nakamura's no input mixer techniques from the late '90s, though was never published until Alga Marghen resurrected the material. Not just a necessary historical document, Opus 17 is a brilliant piece of electronic music.

Bruce Langhorne - The Hired Hand OST LP

Bruce Langhorne - The Hired Hand OST LP (Scissor Tail)

Our Review:

We weren't really sure what to expect with this one. A lost soundtrack from 1971 to a movie none of us had ever heard of, directed by and starring Peter Fonda. The second we threw it on, we knew this was it! A dark and languorous abstract country psych-folk gem. Hearing this for the first time, you'd be forgiven for guessing it was Scott Tuma, Souled American, Califone, Golden Hotel, Thuja, Woven Hand or some totally obscure cd-r on some little tiny label from some mysterious band of psychedelic country folk minstrels. Slow and mournful, delicate and dreamy, acoustic guitars, farfisa organs, harmonicas and an echoplex. Spare and skeletal, mini epics of melancholic twang. Imagine if Sergio Leone had Ennio Morricone assemble a band cobbled together from members of the Jewelled Antler Collective, No Neck Blues Band and Souled American to score one of his Westerns. Definitely recommended if you dig any of the folks mentioned above, especially Morricone.

Circuit Des Yeux - Overdue LP

Circuit Des Yeux - Overdue LP (Ba Da Bing)

Our Review:

Overdue is probably our favorite album of brooding gothic balladry from Ms. Haley Fohr, aka Circuit Des Yeux. This album finds Fohr weaving lushly ominous landscapes of gloomy psychedelic folk and hushed minimalism. The opening track, "Lithonia," takes a striking stance, showing Zola Jesus just how it's done, at least when it comes to fusing symphonic strings with gothic songcraft. Fohr's voice is way up in the front – deep and lustrous, rich and nuanced – while swirling around these sinister strings which blossom from dramatic chamber music backdrop into a crescendo of Bernard Herrmann stabbings "Lithonia" had us wishing for an all orchestral / symphonic record from her. Although the rest of Overdue returns the Circuit Des Yeux of old – more stripped down and folky, mostly just guitar and vocals – but no less effective. The production on this record is fantastic – from the spare dubbed out apocalyptic folk of "Acarina" – with some truly anguished vocals, lots of tripped out effects, and loads of space – to the feral distorted blown out guitar heavy "I Am" that sounds like a meaner, more unhinged PJ Harvey. The FX heavy minimal dream folk of "My Name Is Rune" is replete with backwards tape loops, and woozy buried melodies. The sprawling nearly 9 minute closer, "Helen, You Bitch," swallows a rumbling drone in clouds of noise, crumbling guitar buzz and knuckle dragging tribal drumming. It makes for killer, near metallic, churning noise-psych-dirge finale.

Broadcast - The Noise Made By People LP

Broadcast - The Noise Made By People LP (Warp)

Our Review:

Broadcast's debut full length, The Noise Made By People, released in conjunction with Tommy Boy back in 2000, was a dark and cinematically dreamy departure only hinted at from the early singles. Early and lazy mischaracterizations of the band just being another Stereolab copy (which we might have though ourselves), couldn't be farther from the truth. Keegan's thoughtful and psychically focused lyrics and delivery were a far cry from Sterolab's vocals as rhythm instrument approach. Instead, typified by the opener "Long Was The Year" much of the sound was largely and selectively lifted from electric psychedelic bands from the '60s like United States of America and White Noise where ring modulators and synthesizers transport female voices into environments of psycho-acoustic dream states with an infectious pop moodiness. While their albums like Tender Buttons and The Ha Ha Sound have a more popular following and rightfully so since each album is its own particular gem, we believe their debut is equally potent, underrated and probably the best place to start for the uninitiated. Highest Recommendation!!

Angel - 2017 LP

Angel - 2017 LP (Faro)

Our Review:

2017 is the new dispatch from Adam Stonehouse, last heard from via The Hospitals' epic Hairdryer Peace (2008), an album that served as the last chapter for the band he helmed through much of the decade. With Angel, Stonehouse takes the treated, off-center production approach of Hairdryer Peace for a far-left turn, forging a collision between spiraling new age sounds and suspiciously sleazy 1980s glam rock. Augmenting all of this with forays toward severe dub and sample splicing, Angel also recalls the UK DIY excursions of the It's War Boys orbit and roster. Disparate influences aside, Angel is a work conjured and captured entirely via Stonehouse's inimitable vision, one of the most distinct and unruly out there today. With that, 2017 is a wholly unique, righteously complex record and one of this year's most puzzling and rewarding listens.

Adelbert Von Deyen - Sternzeit LP

Adelbert Von Deyen - Sternzeit LP (Bureau B)

Our Review:

One of the more obscure names of the Berlin School, yet one of the more prolific kosmiche synth-wizards on the Sky label, it's surprising that it has taken this long for Adelbart Von Deyen's early recordings to be reissued. His first album Sternzeit (German for "stardate") released in 1978 seems right out of the Klaus Schultze / Tangerine Dream playbook: long-form sci-fi themed electronic journeys tinged with atmospheric longing and a vague glimmer of hope. Comprised of two sidelong tracks, the title piece a 25-minute opus of dark alien drones and John Carpenter-ish horror movie synthscapes counteracts the more airier and rhythmically spacey 3-part suite "Per Aspera Ad Astra."

Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band - Pedal Steal + Four Corners LP+3CD

Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band - Pedal Steal + Four Corners LP+3CD (Paradise Of Bachelors)

Our Review:

Terry Allen's curriculum vitae is enough to make even the most accomplished of artists' stop and take note. He's received a Guggenheim Fellowship and multiple NEA grants, taught art at UC Berkeley, among other institutions, has works in the collections of the New York MoMA, the Met, the SF MoMA, publicly funded installations in San Francisco, Kansas City (the controversial sculpture entitled Modern Communication), and the list goes on. This is all before even mentioning what he's perhaps best known for, his music career, which has spanned a dozen albums and 40+ years - kicked off by a 1965 performance on the legendary show Shindig! and most notably represented by his cult classic '70s country singer-songwriter albums Juarez, and Lubbock (on everything). Raised in Lubbock, TX, the son of a pianist and a former professional baseball player who, during Allen's childhood, ran a nightclub that hosted boxing and wrestling matches along with Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Elvis concerts. All of which is to say, this is a man who has lived a life, and seen his fair share of the world, especially the harsh, dry, desolate world that is West Texas.

That experience is palpable in his 1985 piece Pedal Steel, a work commissioned by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, a post-modern company based out of San Francisco. Combining original songs, field recordings, and narration - described aptly by Paradise of Bachelors as "country-concrète sound collage" - Pedal Steel is unlike anything else in Allen's catalog; Navajo chants descend into pedal steel freak-outs, big rigs and crickets and thunder and a honky-tonk saxophone all underscore the haunting story, loosely based on the life of the Texas/New Mexico steel player, Wayne Gailey. Impeccably produced by Allen, this is arguably his finest work, and this set is the first ever vinyl release.

Also included in this new Paradise of Bachelors set are 3 CDs collecting his Four Corners - a series of 4 radio plays by Allen and his wife, Jo Harvey Allen, an accomplished artist in her own right, originally broadcast on NPR in the late '80s and early '90s - and a full-color booklet featuring an essay on the work, images of Allen's visual art, and the full scripts of all 5 pieces. A singular piece of work from an artist who embodies Americana in the fullest sense of the word; these are stories that transcend their populist origins, as Allen himself says in Pedal Steel, there's "a lot of ghosts" here.

Tashi Wada - FRKWYS Vol. 14: Nue LP

Tashi Wada - FRKWYS Vol. 14: Nue LP (RVNG Intl.)

Our Review:

For much of the last decade, RVNG Intl.'s FRKWYS series has paired contemporary leftfield artists with their musical forebears, spurring first-time yet strongly intuitive collaborations. With Nue, Tashi Wada's ensemble – featuring his father, the famed sound artist Yoshi Wada – makes a strong play for the series's strongest and most engrossing title yet.

With titles referencing the geologic and the ritualistic – "Aubade," "Litany," "Niagara," "Fanfare" – the tracks on Nue amass and shed layers of drone and overtone, shades of melody and sheets of reverberating space. The pieces assemble themselves around the inexorable pull of Yoshi Wada's bagpipes, their reedy, earthen blare both tempered and enriched by quizzical, ascending keyboard phrases, undulating clouds of percussion, queasy electrical thrum, and wordless vocals. Wada's group has created a suite of music with the heft and depth of dub, densely detailed with fluttering blurs of string and drone, glissandi like shrieking tendrils of sound as they escape upward. And where are those klaxons coming from?

Wada's ensemble swells and heaves and rests with a mesmerizing and sublime organicity and sense of mood. Much of Nue is a deeply unnerving listen, charting territory where curiosity curdles to dread, no less claustrophobic for all of its blasted space. As with its closest analogs – Tony Conrad, Phill Niblock, Ellen Arkbro – this is music best heard, and felt, loud.

Nuno Canavarro - Plux Quba LP

Nuno Canavarro - Plux Quba LP (Drag City)

Our Review:

Plux Quba is a record that after the nearly 30 years of its existence remains impossible to categorize. It's almost as if it was an alien broadcast beamed in from another planet. Little is known about its creator, Nuno Canavarro, outside of his native Portugal and its discovery is so unbelievably legendary and riddled with hearsay that it's easy to dismiss this as a probable hoax.

Recorded in 1988 and released on a private label, it was believed to be discovered in 1991 by Jim O'Rourke while traveling through Europe with Jan St. Werner (Microstoria, Mouse On Mars) and Carsten Schulz (C-Shultz and Hajsch). Liking what he heard, O'Rourke eventually started a label call Moikai in 1998 and the first release was Plux Quba remastered by Portuguese guitarist and composer Rafael Toral. That the sounds contained on Plux Quba would go on to heavily influence the sound of all three artists' later output (not to mention bearing a strong sonic forbearance to Aphex Twin's early ambient pieces, Boards of Canada's nostalgic filmstrip melodies and Christian Fennesz's sublime Endless Summer) is a bizarre case of cosmic synchronicity. Rumors that this was an elaborate prank by the three electronic artists have since been quelled by enough evidence of Canavarro's existence as an architectural student, a member of semi-popular Portuguese new wave bands and his subsequent compositional work in Portuguese cinema.

Indeed, the 15 tracks (8 of which are untitled - many clock in just over a minute) of Plux Quba can be seen as a bridge between the electro-acoustic computer-processing works of Robert Ashley (1979's Automatic Writing) and David Behrman (1984's Leapday Night) on the Lovely music label and the advent of laptop-based electronica of the '90s. Yet Plux Quba seems less aware than that, as if created in a total vacuum. Its mystery remains one of its key attractions. Each track is its own micro-universe of texture and mood. The first bursts of high piercing squelches, random cluster tones, bell drones and squeals, come off as abrasive and abstract, appear than disappear. Its soft-volume minimal experiments are heightened by pauses of pregnant silence that are not easy on casual listeners. It's not until about five short tracks in that processed disembodied voices, bird-like chirps and chord washes begin to emote a tangible melancholy melody and that's when Plux Quba begins to work its magic.

Made with electronics, melodica and pre-recorded tapes of acoustic instruments such as harp, flute, bells, marimbas, organ, an out of tune toy piano and accordion, the overall sound is augmented by whispered transmitted voices, abstracted squeals, glitchy computerized electronics, toy instruments, crying children, animal noises, Conet Project style shortwave babble and off-kilter hand percussion. It's almost as if a computer was fed some primitive bedroom recordings performed by children and asked to mimic the results. The cover art with its childlike drawing and strange font layouts doesn't offer any clues either, unless one is versed in Portuguese perhaps. But even then, Plux Quba seems to be mining a territory where language is useless as an orienting factor, but trades on a highly prevalent universality of emotion. It remains a singular and beguiling artifact that won't appeal to everybody, but offers massive rewards to the curious, adventurous and patient.

Einsturzende Neubauten - Kollaps LP

Einsturzende Neubauten - Kollaps LP (Potomak)

Our Review:

Kollaps. The first album from Einsturzende Neubauten, released back in 1981, found the band as a trio with the wild-throated frontman Blixa Bargeld buttressed by the anarcho-rhythmicists N.U. Unruh and F.M. Einheit. The band photo of Neubauten on Kollaps is quite telling, as a it parodies Pink Floyd's grand collection of instruments that emblazoned the back cover of Ummagumma. Instead of the marching band sized collection of drums and mallets, there's an assortment of hammers, pipes, a couple of drills, a cheap looking synth, an ax (yeah, there is a guitar, but there's also an ax!) and sheet metal twisted in the shape of drumheads. These are the instruments that Neubauten uses in the hyper-primitive, industrial-punk tracks found on Kollaps. Neubauten's amplified junkyard was a clearly a bold statement of DIY primitivism, this trio was not without their structural prowess, crafting anthemic blasts out of their rhythmic churns, bristling with sparkplug noise and rabid distortion. "Tanz Debil" is curiously catchy in its amplified shopping cart bashing which Unruh & Einheit hammer out to accompany the demon-then-zombie vocal delivery from Blixa Bargeld. The title track is a 8 minute monochord mantra, and the band actually pulls off an instrumental cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Je T'Aime." Very rough around the edges, but there is a serious-minded, infernal poetry of pain, anger, and rage focused through these scrap metal arrangements. A tremendous record.

Terry Allen - Juarez LP

Terry Allen - Juarez LP (Paradise Of Bachelors)

Our Review:

Juarez is legendary Texan artist and musician Terry Allen's debut recording from 1975. A spare and violently devastating song-cycle that took the outlaw country of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and merged it into the more nuanced singer-songwriter territory of Randy Newman, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen. A master story-teller, Allen just accompanied by piano and guitar essentially creates the alt-country genre or what would later be known as "Americana," through this story of a young couple on a crime-spree road trip trough the American Southwest and its borderlands. Reissued for the first time on vinyl with the original intended art work. A successful contemporary painter and sculptor, Allen's music and art, while being highly influential on both counts, have often been perceived as parallel practices and not always seen as a whole package. This Paradise of Bachlors reissue seeks to remedy that perception and rightly so. Allen is a keen observer and arch humorist into the delicate but absurd psyche of everyday people.

Raymond Scott - Manhattan Research Inc. 3xLP

Raymond Scott - Manhattan Research Inc. 3xLP (Music On Vinyl)

Our Review:

The academic eggheads that congregate around the musical institutions of the globe have from time to time tried to bring elements of whimsical pop to the sonic weirdness of musique concrete and the electronic oscillators that have continued to gyrate since the 60s. For the most part, the experiments meshing pop & academic New Music have been pretty lame, but not those of Raymond Scott. The Manhattan Research Inc is a double cd which collects the "new plastic sounds and electronic abstractions" from Scott's idiosyncratic work from the 50's & 60's, which included space-age ditties for commercials and oddball electronic noodling. As weird as the 60's space electronics from Dick Hyman / Command Records, yet just as complex as Tod Dockstader or Vladimir Ussachevsky, but with Scott's previous work with Carl Stalling scoring cartoons, these recordings retain a solid grasp on the intrinsically catchy pop jingle. Top it all off with commercial voice-overs for detergent and chewing gum for a wonderful collection of electronic esoterica. It should also be noted that, if you didn't know any better, on first listen, there's a good chance you would mistake this for a Tape Beatles or Negativland record!

Stars Of The Lid - The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid 3xLP

Stars Of The Lid - The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid 3xLP (Kranky)

Our Review:

The triple LP masterpiece from Austin, Texas' kings of the lullaby drone. Stars of the Lid's sound, while similar to past efforts, has undergone some pretty dramatic changes. Their multi-layered 4-tracked guitars are still present in all their serene beauty and dark tranquility, but the sound is more lush and more detailed. The treated strings, organs, backwards tubular bells and field recordings add even more depth to this already layered and impossible-to-grasp-in-one-listen recording. The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid is easily the their most obviously melodic record to date, thanks in no small part to the addition of strings, horns and piano. Dreamy nocturnal slow motion drones are the glorious backdrop to the ebb and flow of dark sonic swells and soaring strings. While lots of drone based music sounds sinister, threatening and often clinical, Stars Of The Lid manage to imbue their minimal soundscapes with warmth and a sort of hope and joy. When the mood does change, it's more melancholic, lost, maybe lonely, never evil. So much avant / experimental music is technical and electronic, but the shimmering ambience of the guitars and the grit and grime of the recording, as well as the perfect arrangements make this music transcend its contemporaries, filling your ears with thick slow sound, until it slowly spreads through your whole body. Think Angus Maclise, Terry Riley, Brian Eno, Low, Alan Lamb's wire recordings, Pauline Oliveros' deep listening recordings, John Cale, Godspeed You Black Emperor, the harmonium works of Hermann Nitsch or Tony Conrad. But mix in those magic (non-academic) ingredients (rock background, songs, melodies) and you have probably one of the most beautiful recordings we have ever heard.

Stars Of The Lid - And Their Refinement Of The Decline 3xLP

Stars Of The Lid - And Their Refinement Of The Decline 3xLP (Kranky)

Our Review:

Since their first record Music For Nitrous Oxide from 1995 up to their beloved The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid from 2001, it's been fascinating to observe their sonic development, from 4-track recordings of murky bedroom guitar drones to their current sound of richly produced, almost orchestral compositions of reverberant swells.

The Stars Of The Lid sound has obviously become much more clear and well defined and polished, much from Nitrous Oxide is still present, albeit in slightly altered form. Stars Of The Lid were always about swells, with the ebbtide of melodies and compositions played out over expansive stretches of oceanic shimmer. Notes aren't just played, they begin as tiny sparkles that gradually grow into thick massive rumbles, before fading away again. Oceanic is definitely an apt descriptor, like some epic dimly lit sonic sea swirling and churning, sometime tranquil and barely moving, other times heaving and tumultuous. It's so completely epic while at the same time managing somehow to be pastoral and contemplative and breathtakingly beautiful.

In the early days it was just 2 guitars and a four track, and the sound reflected that, much more gritty and the mood a lot darker. And only now it seems that the band is able to fully realize the sound they have been hearing, and essentially creating, all along. Stars Of The Lid incorporated guitars here and there. This is after all still the root of their sound, but they seem to be overshadowed by the other instruments, heavy on the strings as well as a surprising arsenal of horns, and a children's choir! And the results are divine. Many of the tracks do sound like bits of modern classical compositions stretched out into languorous stretches of muted drone and subtle shimmer, like watching the planets from outer space, observing the epic drifts of solar systems and an infinity of cosmic interactions. Others definitely reference more earthly sonic treasures, such as "Apreludes (In C Sharp Major)" which has some serious Morricone going on, and "Don't Bother They're Here" references Scott Tuma's washed out guitar work in Souled American. But whatever subtle flavor is introduced into each track, the sound is definitely and distinctly Stars Of The Lid. Their shift to a triple LP also seems to suit them, allowing their slow burning soft swell compositions plenty of time to sprawl and spread and evolve into epic and soul stirring soundscapes.

Roy Montgomery - R M H Q: Headquarters 4xLP

Roy Montgomery - R M H Q: Headquarters 4xLP (Grapefruit)

Our Review:

Much of Roy Montgomery's music hangs suspended between the familiar and its estrangement, evocatively inhabiting the tension between rational thought and acute intuition. Montgomery returns with a tremendous 4LP set brimming with all-new recordings, collectively titled R M H Q: Headquarters, each record bearing a subtitle that reflects, or refracts, its content. The set's middle two discs work as interruptions or dilations of genre – Darkmotif Dancehall is reverb-drenched drum machines and crystalline layers of bled-out guitar, while Bender plays like an extended foray beyond Montgomery's 2012 release Hey Badfinger (the soundtrack for a film that doesn't exist) with tracks such as "Chasing Monica Vitti," "Cocktails With Can" and a pulsing ode to fallen compatriot Peter Gutteridge.

But it's the albums bookending R M H Q which at once channel and poignantly develop the very best of Montgomery's body of work. "Transient Global Amnesia" rounds out R M H Q with some of Montgomery's most affecting instrumental music to date – to wit, set-closer "Weathering Mortality," the capstone of a massive new work compelled by rounds of disaster natural and otherwise. "Tropic of Anodyne," meanwhile, harnesses a fierceness belying its title. The only record of the bunch to feature vocals, its standout track for this reviewer is "You Always Get What You Deserve," a woozy, oblique inversion of the Rolling Stones standby that serves up an acerbic commentary on Montgomery's own career and position in the international underground. Intoning "well, I woke wearing someone else's cliché/There were people staring at me gathered 'round," Montgomery goes on to parry anonymous recriminations ("you so rarely make a sound") and condemnations ("you say I reached my peak some years ago/and I never ran that deep") before rejecting any such baseless arbitration of talent or success and then dropping the hammer: "get back in your cages, my churlish little pets / you cannot live without me, I'm as something ... something ... something as it gets."

As far as this reviewer is concerned, he's right. For over thirty years, Roy Montgomery has fashioned a beautifully deliberate and indispensable body of work. Also deliberate is his hilariously cheeky refusal to predicate just what it is his work is ("something ... something ... something"). To borrow the title of one of his most arresting songs – one recorded, as it happens, in San Francisco – the Roy Montgomery sound suggests something submerged and colorful: familiar components (guitars, effects, sung-spoken vocals) so painstakingly and complexly layered that they take on entirely new shades of meaning and sound. It's tempting to think of Roy Montgomery as the thinking person's guitar hero. But his long (if fairly uncluttered) career offers a gently insistent reminder that too much thought – on the ideas a piece of music is intended to convey, rather than on the means of conveyance itself – comes at the cost of intuition and invention. Or, as he puts it on Tropic of Anodyne's title track: while "over and over the strumming repeats ... a new constellation is just round the bend." There are few starguides as patient and capable as Roy Montgomery; we remain gladly and gratefully under his tutelage.

Sonic Youth - Confusion Is Sex LP

Sonic Youth - Confusion Is Sex LP (Goofin')

Our Review:

Sonic Youth's 1984 album Confusion Is Sex is a vortex of bad juju and deliberately ugly atonality. The album stands both as a necessary defensive position upon confronting the bleakness of New York's ills at the time and as the emergent laboratory of avant-guitar experiments that would run through the Sonic Youth history. In shoving screwdrivers and drumsticks between the strings of guitars and bass, Sonic Youth crafted songs on Confusion Is Sex that were deliberately percussive and atonal, furthering and exaggerating the ideas that had come out those early Glenn Branca guitar-army symphonies (in which SY's Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo were early members). A rasping, acrid interplay of banged and bludgeoned instruments matches the barked monotone delivery from Moore and Kim Gordon, who empty themselves through the nihilist tone poems of "(She's In A) Bad Mood" and "Shaking Hell" only to crash through a manic cover of The Stooges "I Wanna Be A Dog" with an unhinged giddiness of self-immolation. Given how dissonant and percussive Sonic Youth were during their earliest incarnation, it's interesting that the band was rotating through drummers at such a rapid clip. Sonic Youth dropped Richard Edson after the eponymous debut, and for this recording they had No Wave stalwart Jim Sclavunos (of most all of Lydia Lunch's '70s bands) and Bob Bert alternating behind the drum kit. Perhaps this destabilization of the rhythm section played into Sonic Youth's cauldron of bracingly discordant revelry that made Confusion Is Sex so much a pivotal record in the history of the Lower East Side noise-rock bands. In all of the primitive punk demolition and uncontrolled pummel, Confusion Is Sex remains one of Sonic Youth's most confrontational recordings. Thurston has maintained that this is one of his favorite Sonic Youth records.

Murmer - Songs For Forgetting LP

Murmer - Songs For Forgetting LP (Gruenrekorder)

Our Review:

The American ex-pat Patrick McGinley (aka Murmer) has now taken up residence in a rural village in Estonia after many years of wanderings and explorations. To this day, he continues to roam any and all environments, collecting field recordings and his own interventions with a particular place. It has been almost five years since his last solo work, but McGinley remains a steadfast champion the field recording within composition through his weekly Framework radio series, broadcast on Resonance FM and beyond through numerous radio and online outlets. Songs For Forgetting highlights McGinley's talents in molding and shaping tone and subtle melody from deep within the fundamental sounds of a particular environmental sound. At the same time, he'll interject actual instrumentation. The playful clatter of McGinley tinkering with a zither ringing in the vein of Harry Partch set in motion against a humid chorus of cicadas and spellbinding dronescaping. Witness the psalter-like halo blossoms on the second half of the record, where we find McGinley bowing a Soviet era antenna mounted at the top of an near-space observational telescope. The resulting harmonics and pastorally minimalist drones are drop-dead gorgeous, as richly sonorous as anything Pauline Oliveros and Charlemagne Palestine would compose through more conventional means. Songs For Forgetting manifests into a beautiful record, packaged in an suitably rough-hewn, embossed sleeve that was fabricated at the Rapina Paper Factory in southeast Estonia. McGinley has included considerable notes and ephemera, turning this into an wondrous objet d'art.

Omar Souleyman - Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts 2xLP

Omar Souleyman - Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts 2xLP (Sublime Frequencies)

Our Review:

We're not sure how a live Omar Souleyman record differs from any of his other records, which were all essentially recorded live. But these shows are distinctive for one reason in particular - they all took place in the West, in front of audiences outside of the Middle East, who most likely had never seen anything like it. And we were lucky enough to see Souleyman perform here in San Francisco, and we were blown away. The sound was incredible - that tangled Eastern psychedelic sound which is already so propulsive and rhythmic and mesmerizing. To see a whole sweaty throng of SF hipsters, punks and metalheads losing their shit, and dancing wildly to these weird and wonderful sounds, it was pretty inspiring. We couldn't help but wonder how Souleyman felt, performing in these big dance clubs, maybe it just seemed strange to us, cuz really we can't imagine any crowd, no matter how big or small resisting these incredible grooves. So here are a handful of live performances, from America, Australia, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the UK and Denmark, all of the tracks here finding Souleyman in fine form, the music lively and wildly chaotic, psychedelic and groovy. One thing this live record does gives us the chance to focus on is Souleyman's keyboardist / percussionist, Rizan Sa'id, who when we saw Souleyman, almost stole the show. Sure, Souleyman was the master of ceremonies, pacing the stage, clapping and singing, hyping the crowd. But off to the side was Sa'id, going totally nuts on the keyboard and providing all of the music. He's a veritable one man band, playing wild melodies, looping rhythms, triggering big rib-cage rattling beats. The best part was that all of those flurries of Middle Eastern percussion, those are actually being played live, his hands a blur over the keyboard's drum pads. We literally could not take our eyes off him. On these tracks, those two are joined by an electric saz player, who adds another glorious layer of psychedelic buzz, and as you might imagine, this is incredible, and fantastic and totally and utterly transcendent. Fans will want this for sure, and it's definitely a perfect introduction to Souleyman's spiritual sonic magic, and by all means, if you get the chance to see this stuff live, you won't be sorry.

Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument - Shemonmuanaye 2xLP

Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument - Shemonmuanaye 2xLP (Awesome Tapes From Africa)

Our Review:

Among Ethiopian Jazz aficionados, Hailu Mergia may not have as big of a name as Mulutu Astatke or Mahmoud Ahmed, but this 1985 recording of traditional Ethiopian jazz pieces played on analog synth, piano and accordion could have easily been part of the great Ethiopiques series. Mergia cut his teeth with The Walliaa Band, the legendary group founded by Mulatu Astake, and has backed many of Ethiopia's greatest bandleaders (the band still performs to this day at the Addis Ababa Hilton). But it's this solo excursion, played in true one-man-band style that takes the sensual loping rhythms of Ethio-jazz into realms so warm and personal and utterly unique. Recommended!

J Dilla - Donuts 2xLP

J Dilla - Donuts 2xLP (Stones Throw)

Our Review:

Chock full of soulful vocal snippets, sloppy edits and stony melodic breaks. This is like a worn mix-tape of short buttery sonic collages culled from the cream of bad thrift store records: trashy R'n'B, mid-'70s jazz, easy listening and peppered with more pedigreed takes from the likes of the Three Degrees, Esther Philips and Raymond Scott. The beauty of Jay Dee's production is the unconventional way he pulls the sounds together, exposing instead of polishing the rough edits and scratchy recordings. Delicious and catchy, these "donuts" will keep you humming all day long. This sublime record of hip hop instrumentals is made sadder by Jay Dee's recent untimely death at the age of 32. For DJs, fans of Jay Dee and Stones Throw records, purchasing this is a no-brainer: It's essential! For those of you who may not know the mad production skills of J Dilla, there is no better introduction than this. Totally Recommended!

Joanna Brouk - Hearing Music 2xLP

Joanna Brouk - Hearing Music 2xLP (Numero Group)

Our Review:

Third in The Numero Group's archival series of obscure California modernist new age composers following the incredible Iasos and Jordan De La Sierra releases, comes this breathtaking anthology of works from Robert Ashley and Terry Riley protege Joanna Brouk. Hearing Music collects little heard recordings from this Mills College Center for Contemporary Music graduate who was inspired by the frequencies of sound occurring in nature. Approaching sound composition more as a conduit than a willful subjection of ideas, Brouk used recordings of nature, especially of bees and crickets, slowing them down and finding the underlying drones from which to build long-form evocative pieces involving piano, flute, horns, gongs and voice. Brouk found that the sustained drone had a universal connection from sounds of nature to chanting of monks to the overtones heard on a piano, and by just listening to the frequencies of a tone, she could channel the right space and atmosphere for what the composition would end up becoming. Hearing Music is a brilliant and beautiful introduction into the reclusive sound world of a truly remarkable composer.

Grouper - Ruins LP

Grouper - Ruins LP (Kranky)

Our Review:

Piano and voice. That's what we encounter in the latest incantation from Liz Harris, once again recording as Grouper. Chillingly beautiful smears from dankly shoegazing guitars, loop-station electronics, mumbled vocals, and a near constant wash of stoned introspection were the common elements of those albums of hers that captured our imagination like Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill and AIA: Dream Loss. She's eschewed pretty much all of the gauzy blur and the narcotic diffusion that runs through all of her previous albums; but the delicacy of these songs on Ruins and beguiling poetry of sadness makes this very much another fantastic Grouper album.

Harris wrote all of the material for Ruins during a residency in Portugal back in 2011. There, she made full use of an upright piano, recording these songs onto a four-track with occasional overdubs, just for an additional layer voice here and there in order to harmonize with herself. Without all of the fuzz and drone, Harris' lyrics enjoy a bit more clarity, though she has long been one to slur the syllables into a cooing gasp of pitch-perfect intoxication. Her songs arpeggiate on simple piano chords evolving the minor key repetition into secretive, plaintive lullabies, slowly tapped out to match the torpor of her voice. The album is starkly naked in the emotional fragility of these arrangements, but Harris is very much in control of the poetics calmly painting her songs in a sonic palette of rainy-day blues and greys. It's much closer to the under appreciated Mirroring collaboration that hopefully wasn't just a one-off with Tiny Vipers' Jesy Fortino. Yes, another gem from the wintery soul of Liz Harris.

Drinks - Hermits On Holiday LP

Drinks - Hermits On Holiday LP (Birth)

Our Review:

Drinks sports the angular songwriting one-two punch of Tim Presley (aka White Fence) and the beguiling Welsh chanteuse Cate Le Bon. The result of their collaboration is sheer post-punk perfection. Taking turns on vocals, the interplay between Tim and Cate through these minimal and infectious songs works so well. There is not a wasted note or wasted second on this record. Think of the best parts of Young Marble Giants and Deerhoof coming together, and you might start to get a sense of the vibrant sounds that Drinks create. Art-damaged, punchy and stripped down sounds that ring with an immediacy that is so damn refreshing. Hermits On Holiday also recalls a long and super underrated record that was the only recording by a band named Klang who featured an ex-member of Elastica. If you ever heard that record, No Sound Is Heard, you know the greatness it contained and we were so stoked to finally hear a brand new record that taps into that same sound, and likewise channels early Rough Trade output in all its brilliant post-punk glory. Recommended!

Current 93 - Swastikas For Noddy / Crooked Crosses For The Nodding God 2xLP

Current 93 - Swastikas For Noddy / Crooked Crosses For The Nodding God 2xLP (The Spheres)

Our Review:

Here is the necessary reissue of Current 93's masterpieces Swastikas For Noddy and Crooked Crosses For The Nodding God - two albums that solidified the apocalyptic folk songwriting for David Tibet and company. Tibet's sergeant-at-arms for these sessions was Douglas P of Death In June with the ghostly presence of Steven Stapleton felt through sporadically through the mix; and a rather large cast of characters involved in making what are minimal neofolk albums. Swastikas For Noddy at the time of release in 1988 was quipped as "the pop album" for Current 93. Compared to the Crowleyian chants and nightmarish bricolage of Nature Unveiled and Dogs Blood , this would certainly ring true; but in the light of the entire C93 oeuvre, Swastikas For Nodd is a feral scrabbling of the more baroque orchestrations and arrangements that Tibet would coax out of his musical troupe. Noddy is a British children's character from the mid-century and in the fluid pantheon of godheads that Tibet worked into his cryptic poetry and revelations, Noddy had become a semi-deity which he figured into a canon of his own making alongside Christ, Crowley and Lucifer. It's an absurd declaration; and the whimsy that Current 93 can muster in such jaunty numbers as "Beau Soleil" and "Hey Ho The Noddy Oh" acquire a sinister irony to them. Current 93 offers their version of "Oh Coal Black Smith" which had been a British folk staple dating back to the early 19th Century under the title "The Two Magicians", matching Current 93's then infatuation of Comus with the wild-eyed psych-folk mania and urgent, two-note acoustic guitar strum alongside Tibet's feral vocals.

Crooked Crosses For The Nodding God is an album that originally came out in 1989 on Stapleton's United Dairies, as remixed, restructured and rerecorded versions of many of the songs that went into Swastikas For Noddy. These versions are much more skewed, demented and psychedelic, showing much more of Stapleton's penchant for dislocating the minimal folk arrangements and singsong tunes with warped effects, drones, cloak and dagger. Included here is a version of Current 93's "Looney Runes" with its glam-goth guitar riff and early Alice Cooper vibe, amidst Tibet's freakish chanting. It makes perfect sense to bind these two albums together, with the latter as the lysergic mind-fuck version of the former.

Comets On Fire - s/t LP

Comets On Fire - s/t LP (Comets On Fire)

Our Review:

Psychedelic speed garage punk from Santa Cruz! Comets On Fire fuse the amphetamine energy of High Rise with hyper-distorted vocals and electronic tweakery. The SF/Bay Area has been sprouting lots of intense garage-punk acts lately, most of which (try to) rehash the sound of the MC5 and cop the style of the Stooges (it's hard not to), but what really sets these boys ahead of all the others is the use of noise and effects – thanks to electronics tweak-maestro Noel Harmonson (of Santa Cruz no-wave rascals The Lowdown) on an Echoplex! If you edited out the actual rock songs on here, and just left the noises of their track endings and segues, you could create what would sound like a pretty interesting experimental abstract electronica album. But, with the rock, it's even better. A really fucking excellent debut from outta nowhere!

Bruce Haack - Electric Lucifer LP

Bruce Haack - Electric Lucifer LP (Telephone Explosion)

Our Review:

Can you imagine if "Music To Moog By" maestro Gershon Kingsley had dropped acid, joined a commune, got religion, and jammed with the Silver Apples. That might approximate what the unique, wondrous psych-pop "Mooglove" of 1969's The Electric Lucifer sounds like! Well it's about as psychedelic as you can get, a concept album that's futuristic and Biblically ancient at the same time. Haack used an electronic "computer voice" (long before it was cliche) that he named FARAD, as well as regular human vocals, to convey deep Age of Aquarius astrological/philosophical concepts, sometimes in the form of sinister liturgies, at others like playful rhyming lullabies. These Moog-y, moody and groovy compositions feature churchy organ sounds, bleeps and bloops, and rhythmic percolations that wouldn't sound out of place in the Star Wars cantina. There's lugubrious droney passages, mechanical beats, switched-on classical flourishes and musique concrete style sound collage. Very weird yet oh-so-catchy. Highest recommendation. Listen to the love angel, people!

Brian Eno & David Byrne - My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts 2xLP

Brian Eno & David Byrne - My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts 2xLP (Nonesuch)

Our Review:

Mixing elements of world, funk, dub and electronic music has for the most part turned out to be a recipe for disaster. All too many have attempted this mix with a glossy shine and a clumsy hand and without fail have produced pretty tepid attempts at cross cultural imagination. From 1979-1980, Brian Eno and David Byrne recorded their take on this fusion, years before it became chic. Of course with just the right kind of careful and talented hands, they were actually able to make those elements come together and create a brand new language. What's so nice about hearing this reissue is how it's both ahead of its time but also so contemporary of the early '80s as well. With moments that bring you back to the bits on early Talking Heads records and with a recording quality so refreshingly raw and primitive. This record was recorded by a large ensemble cast including Bill Laswell who was just then starting his band Material with lots of the same ideas and elements. While not totally related in exact sound, we can totally see how many of today's cross cultural sonic explorers were influenced by this record. There's no doubt these were sounds soaked up by the best hip-hop & electronic producers of the '80s and '90s as well as folks like Animal Collective and Excepeter. Essential.

Children Of Alice - s/t LP

Children Of Alice - s/t LP (Warp)

Our Review:

It's been 6 years since Trish Keenan's shocking untimely death and we have about lost all hope for any posthumous Broadcast release (their various tour-only releases and remixes of other groups have sadly yet to be anthologized). Yet, what we do have finally is this first widely-released foray into a post-Broadcast sound-world made by surviving member and partner James Cargill, former Broadcast keyboardist Roj Stevens and Ghost Box founder Julian House, also of The Focus Group. Like a counterpoint to the group's final release, Broadcast And The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of The Radio Age, Children of Alice channel a mesmerizing sound-world of curious wonder through four labyrinthine tracks. Plundering down the rabbit hole through radio-phonic textures, eldritch mystery and dreamy hypnotic electronics, the effect of this new project is toward a different kind of life-altering endgame than the dark turns and consequences of the previous Broadcast release. Instead, it seeks a mirroring lightness, a ghost chase in the form of bittersweet memories of innocence being brought to life in refracting crystalline hues. A beautiful tribute to one of our most missed fallen treasures.

Boards Of Canada - Music Has The Right To Children 2xLP

Boards Of Canada - Music Has The Right To Children 2xLP (Warp)

Our Review:

Having released a couple of obscure singles and a hard-to find full length, Boards of Canada seemed to have come out of nowhere when they made their debut. Named after and inspired by the seventies documentary film company The National Film Board of Canada, this band of Scottish brothers Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison created one of the first IDM outfits that built off the futuristic electronic and downtempo beatscapery of genre pioneers Autechre and Aphex Twin while infusing their music with a warm, nostalgic and sun-dappled melancholy. It was hard at first to pinpoint what created that distinct nostalgic feeling, because back then not many folks were as clued into the world of library music (essentially instrumental soundtrack music made by private companies for use in commercial and industrial films including the educational-minded National Film Board of Canada) as we are now. Many of the melodies and themes on Music Has the Right to Children seem to be lifted straight from those elementary school educational films, the type that inhabited our childhoods as well. The music gives off a warbled lilting pastoral vibe that prismatizes into a sunburst of kaleidoscopic reverie, evoking memories of hip educational graphics of basic science concepts like geometrical forms, color spectrums and weather patterns that would allude to a larger sense of wonder that we, as adult listeners, no longer seemed to have. How it was made, whether through instrumental musicianship, a sophisticated sampling and filtering process, or a combination of both remains mysterious today. A few years back when the philosophic concept of Hauntology (a past premonition of a future that never was, to put it very simply) was being bandied about a lot with groups like Broadcast & The Focus Group and The Caretaker, many have spoken of this album as a key musical touchstone. It does indeed have a strange quality of being both of and beyond its time, a quality in turn that continues to bedazzle, beguile and bewitch. Essential!

Body/Head - No Waves LP

Body/Head - No Waves LP (Matador)

Our Review:

The Dead C scribbled "The AMM of Punk Rock" as the opening track on their 2007 Future Artists album. Whether their intent was sarcastically self-effacing or ignobly grandiose, that Dead C title makes for a pithy rejoinder in defining the blustery strategies not only for The Dead C, but also for what Kim Gordon has been up to since the tragic flame-out of Sonic Youth. That said, Body/Head is Gordon's sporadic improv-noise duo with Bill Nace. In studio and on stage, the two construct "scripted improvisations" through a churning wash of squalid feedback, heavy-lidded hypnosis and anti-rock form destruction. Gordon and Nace smear and slime their dronemusik with some classic Sonic Youth atonal confrontation and crumbled amp demolition. All of this sounds remarkably like a drumless version of The Dead C – with the notable exception of Gordon's off-kilter voice. On No Waves, she warbles even more like Jandek than she has in the past. These three long-form Body/Head pieces were recorded live at the 2014 Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. Given the approaches engaged with automatic writing and spontaneous effluvia of leaden sonic bluster, the raw immediacy of a live recording suits them just fine.

The Sound - From The Lions Mouth LP

The Sound - From The Lions Mouth LP (1972)

Our Review:

From The Lions Mouth was The Sound's second album, released originally in 1981; and it displays a big leap toward a more theatrical atmosphere and away from the jittery two-step punk-pop of their debut. By this record, frontman Adrian Borland developed a voice that falls somewhere between a couple of Ians – Ian McCulloch's Scott Walker croon in Echo & The Bunnymen and Ian Astbury's snakebit yelp then of Southern Death Cult. From The Lions Mouth also benefits from the lush, layered production of Hugh Jones. The Sound maps out much longer, tracks that soar, billow and collapse with more aplomb than The Chameleons, Comsat Angels, or Cripsy Ambulance, exemplified by the album's final number "New Dark Age." It makes for an epic, sprawling album that does raise a lot of questions as to why The Sound didn't propel themselves onto MTV and beyond like so many of their contemporaries.

Pierre Marietan - Rose Des Vents 2xLP

Pierre Marietan - Rose Des Vents 2xLP (Mana)

Our Review

Originally commissioned by the French government in 1981 and released in a private press in 1987, Pierre Marietan's Rose Des Vents is an inimitable blend of field recording, psychoacoustics, sound art and serialist composition. Swiss by origin, Marietan studied composition with Boulez, Pousseur and Stockhausen before moving to France and founding the Groupe d'etude et realisation musicales (GERM) in 1966. Over the next several years, Marietan's interests gradually centered around the study and preservation of urban sound environments, providing the impetus for the project that became Rose Des Vents.

Marietan conceived of Rose Des Vents - idiomatic French for "compass rose" - as an evolving series of site-specific actions and recordings, rooted in the sonic environments of a number of small villages in the Val d'Oise around Paris. Spending up to a week in each of these towns, Marietan recorded the sounds of daily life - barges, trains, birds, carillons, children at play - and later mixed these with studio recordings of brief melodic phrases, largely played on saxophone and keyboard, as well as snippets of synthesizer and electronics. The result cuts the sonics of quotidian chance with elegant compositional restraint. While Rose Des Vents finds its closest analogues in the recordings of Alvin Curran and Luc Ferrari, Marietan's work retains a sense of singularity as it captures the uncanny nature of everyday life and its disarmingly moving acoustics. Mana Records' welcome reissue contextualizes Marietan's work with reflections from the artist as well as a wealth of contemporaneous documentation and ephemera. Truly unlike anything you've ever heard!