Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza - Azioni / Reazioni 5xLP+DVD

Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza - Azioni / Reazioni 5xLP+DVD (Die Schachtel)

Our Review:

Azione / Reazioni documents the brilliantly abstract percussive improv from legendary 1960s outfit Gruppo Improvisazione Nuova Consonanza, who among its members counted a young Ennio Morricone. The line-up was mutable, and at various points featured Walter Branchi, John Heineman and the aforementioned Morricone, alongside Roland Kayn, Ivan Vandor, Mario Bertoncini, Egisto Macchi, Jerry Rosen, Antonelli Neri, Giovanni Piazza, Giancarlo Schiaffini, and for a time, Musica Elettronica Viva founder Frederic Rzewski.

The pieces on Azione / Reazioni were recorded between 1967 and 1969, released here for the first time on vinyl. A series of lengthy improvisations found within range from clattery, percussive soundscapes assembled from all manner of objects, tangled with haunting whorls of electronics, skronky horns, pounded piano and weird tape experiments. Gruppo deftly articulates droney spaced out free jazz, but always retaining a wide-eyed innocence and a penchant for kicking up a seriously noisy racket. Most of this sounds like it could easily have been recorded in this day and age as some mysterious outfit from Finland circa 2006 or Japan in 1982. Noisy as all get out, but incredibly captivating and strangely lovely at times.

Includes DVD of a gorgeous black-and-white concert film from 1967 and expansive 64-page book. Edition of 500.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - On The Echoing Green LP

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - On The Echoing Green LP (Mexican Summer)

Our Review:

Beginning with his overt homage to lovesliescrushing on the Love Is A Stream album from 2010, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma has reinvented himself as a sonic confectioner of sugar-crush drone pop. One of the two piloting guitarists for the now defunct Tarentel, Cantu-Ledesma remains an intrepid experimentalist with style and form. This was certainly the case for Tarentel which traversed the avant-rock landscapes, first soaring through post-rock crescendos of radioluminescent guitar noise akin to Mogwai and Godspeed! You Black Emperor. As the band progressed, Cantu-Lesdema was encouraging the band to embrace digital trickery, tape manipulation, unconventional instrumentation and disjointed time signatures, cross-referencing the aesthetics of Fennesz, AMM and Talk Talk. This evolution continued into his solo work which really came into its own on that aforementioned 2010 record. On The Echoing Green once again shifts things but in a more subtle manner. Pre-fab drum machine rhythms gird the mostly-instrumental songs that cycle through wistfully melodic guitar lines and equally bucolic drifts of liquid ambience.

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.

Pierre Marií©tan - Rose Des Vents 2xLP

Pierre Marií©tan - 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!

Ry Cooder - Paris, Texas OST LP

Ry Cooder - Paris, Texas OST LP (Real Gone)

Our Review:

One of the best pairings of soundtrack and visuals ever committed to film: Wim Wenders' 1984 existential Western drama Paris, Texas, starring the inimitable Harry Dean Stanton. Ry Cooder's gorgeously pensive score plays on both the wide-open space of the empty Texan landscape as well as its oppressive heat. Through beautifully spacious slide-guitar compositions and forlorn Mariachi ballads, we're thrust into the emotionally lethargic environment of the borderlands and left to ponder where and why it all went wrong.

Limited edition of 900 copies on translucent blue vinyl.

Bill Orcutt - s/t LP

Bill Orcutt - s/t LP (Palilalia)

Our Review:

It's only been eight years since Bill Orcutt's first post-resurrection single appeared out of nowhere. While his mangled 4-string shredding in legendary Miami outfit Harry Pussy borrowed as much from free jazz as hardcore, Orcutt's re-emergence as a blues guitarist has been a completely arresting, exhausting and exhilarating ride.

This new self-titled LP, his first solo electric studio album, is a tremendous capstone to dozens of releases issued on the artist's own Palilalia label. That one would someday be listening to Orcutt playing standards may have seemed unthinkable during HP's mid-90s heyday, but perhaps more shocking is just how gorgeous this record sounds. Rich chords and delicate arpeggios shimmer with vibrato, and Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" sounds just as radical here as it did six decades ago. Orcutt's playing remains striking, bold and inspired. This may be the best Orcutt record yet, and yes that says a lot, but beauty is still a rare thing.

Fra Lippo Lippi - In Silence LP

Fra Lippo Lippi - In Silence LP (Onderstroom)

Our Review:

Fra Lippo Lippi's debut album is an outlier in the band's discography. In the earliest incarnation of 1981, the Norwegian band was a trio featuring Rune Kristoffersen (guitars / bass) Per Oystein Sorensen (vocals), and Morten Sjoberg (drums), with all taking turns on keyboards. Kristoffersen's presence is noteworthy as he later founded the avant-jazz / avant-rock label Rune Grammofon in 1998, publishing work from Supersilent, Motorpsycho and Biosphere. By the mid '80s, the band's line-up changed and their sound shifted towards a soft-pop of electronic ballads that brought them some commercial success with albums on Virgin and EMI. In Silence is most definitely not of that sound. Inspired by Joy Division and paralleling like-minded acts such as Section 25, Siglo XX and Second Layer, Fra Lippo Lippi shaped their sound through a post-punk gloom. The songs keep a stately, if tear-stained pace just a tick above a funereal dirge. The chimed guitars recall Robert Smith's minor-chord strum on The Cure's Faith and Seventeen Seconds with the rhythm section darkly lumbering in time with the b-side to Unknown Pleasures. In keeping true to the sound of Martin Hannett's productions, Fra Lippo Lippi pushed the monotone vocals and moody ambient wash to the back in the mix, bathing these droning, gloomy elements with a tear-stained reverberation. It makes for an atmospherically bleak album, less claustrophobic and more somber. Those who found their mid '80s work too saccharine will have much more to sink their teeth into on In Silence.

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.

Sun Kil Moon - Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood 4xLP

Sun Kil Moon - Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood 4xLP (Caldo Verde)

Our Review:

After dissolving Red House Painters, singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek resurfaced in 2002 with Sun Kil Moon, refining his acoustic balladry and confessional lyricism. Sun Kil Moon's ambitious double-album, Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood, maintains Kozelek's stream-of-consciousness style of songwriting with a few notable detours, at least in terms of content. Since the 2010 album Benji and through Universal Themes from 2015, Kozelek has steered the poetry of his lyrics away from the plumbed depths of a world-weary romantic towards sardonic observations, with these tribulations becoming damning epithets at the turn of a quick phrase. Kozelek's declarations that lead up to the release of Common As Light (with many of these themes spilling into the songs themselves) set him up as a polarizing character in the public eye. It's almost inevitable that this stance is by design, even if he's harvesting his honest reactions. There's his disdain for Twitter and his animus for those who only pine for his early recordings; and these are just two of the targets of his gall. As much as he celebrates one perceived virtue and denigrates one perceived vice, Kozelek is very much the product of self-absorption that he so often rails against. It makes for a complicated, complex exploration of the self here on Common As Light. Kozelek nakedly spills his lyrical soup through his inimitable hushed hymnal voice onto Sun Kil Moon's unadorned indie-folk arrangements that profess a surprisingly bold use of electronic sequencing. Kozelek deliberated held back the vinyl edition of this album by three or four months, meaning that his fans who patiently awaited this 4xLP opus probably already passed judgement on Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood.

Gunter Schickert - Kinder In Der Wildnis LP

Gunter Schickert - Kinder In Der Wildnis LP (Bureau B)

Our Review:

Originally released as a cassette tape in 1983, the material on Kinder In Der Wildnis consists of disparate DIY recordings drawn from Schickert's archives, so it's a bit more varied than either of his earlier albums, though if you've heard those, you'll recognize right away that you're back in Schickert's sonic realm, one of organic field recording atmospheres and trance-inducing minimalist pulsations. But something about this is so much more nervy and dark, and more "rocked out" too at times. Maybe it's the influence of the Neue Deutsche Welle, but we're still talking krautrock.

Even though Schickert does everything himself (guitar, tape, vocals, percussion, trumpet), it somehow sounds like a whole band, and that band sounds like Amon Duul II and Faust trapped together in a bunker, jamming endlessly in the middle of the night. The music is dark and claustrophobic despite the environmental nature sounds that Schickert likes to weave into his recordings. There's the children's voices on here too (his daughter sings on the jittery title track) but that's in stark contrast to the druggy darkness of so much of this. Tracks like "Rabe In Der Nacht" and "Hollentanz" are a dense lo-fi mesh of percolating beats, wailing psych guitar, and sound FX. Bird twitter-y field recordings (and crazy crow-like cawing from Schickert himself, we assume) meet overdubbed layers of chanting vocal parts, including more animal-like cries, in the hallucinatory mix. Swirling drones of synth coalesce into hypnotic throbbing rhythms, over which lilting keyboard motifs hint at the likes of Goblin.

Yep, it's a freakin' great record all right. Trippy and weird and psychically round the bend. In other words, super satisfying.

Gunter Schickert - Uberfallig LP

Gunter Schickert - Uberfallig LP (Bureau B)

Our Review:

Uberfallig was Schickert's second album, originally issued in 1979 on the Sky label and the follow up to his 1974 Brain debut Samtvogel. We've been in love with this record forever, referencing it and Schickert plenty of times in other reviews when we want to cite something incredibly atmospheric and minimalistically trance inducing from deep in the krautrock zone. Here on Uberfallig, Schickert's exceptionally hypnotic space-echo guitar work, similar to Manuel Gottsching of Ashra, is matched by fascinating rhythmic pulsations, at times recalling prime Can-like velocities or the circular bubbliness of AR & Machines and some Pink Floyd Meddle era pastoral psych vibes as well. And it's mostly just Schickert (guitar, voice) and a few friends (drums and vocals) plus nature sounds, deftly deployed.

It builds from calmly rhythmic beginnings to pure hypno-guitar bliss, mixed with subtle, splashy, sploshy field recordings - evoking the idea of Schickert and his drummer colleague Charles M. Heuer wading upstream in the wilds somewhere as their music plays. That begins the recurrent watery theme found on this album, an ever present liquid watery ambience, the sounds of wind and rain and surf and babbling brooks woven in among the "actual" instruments.

It's all druggy and delicate, moody and mesmeric. Quite the tour de force, coming to a close with strange samples and lovely crackling.

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.

Leyland Kirby - Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was (Part Two: Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was) 2xLP

Leyland Kirby - Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was (Part Two: Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was) 2xLP (History Always Favours The Winners)

Our Review:

Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was is the second chapter in a trilogy of releases from the drone haze ambient masterpiece from the man behind the Caretaker, first released in 2009. Beginning in the mid '00s, Leyland James Kirby began releasing a highly acclaimed catalog of maudlin ambient recordings culled from melodic phrases looped and blurred from old 78s. The bulk of these recordings (typically released under the Caretaker moniker) find Kirby living under the grey skies of Berlin having relocated from grey skied Manchester; lo and behold, he's still making cold, rainy grey music for cold, rainy days. And yeah, he's pretty damn good at it.

Just like all of Kirby's other records, the album works as an endless loop of flipping the two records, forgetting which track you've drifted in and out of, and wondering where to start next. These pieces of blurred ambience, obfuscated field recordings, and sad piano melodies hint at the furniture music of Erik Satie, the mood engineering of Angelo Badalamenti and the emotional resonance of William Basinski.

Deathprod - Treetop Drive 2xLP

Deathprod - Treetop Drive 2xLP (Smalltown Supersound)

Our Review:

Deathprod is the existentially bleak solo project of Helge Sten, who is also a key member of both Supersilent and Motorpsycho. In 2004, Rune Grammofon published a 4CD box-set compendium of Deathprod's work that was recorded between 1991 and 2000. Housed in an matte black box with a all black artwork and the sparest of text, this anthology presented itself as a semantic void, with nothing but the harrowing orchestrations of controlled noise and brooding atmosphere into Deathprod's oeuvre. This reissue campaign from Smalltown Supersound marks the first time any of these recordings have been on vinyl. Like before with the CD box-set, this too is enshrouded in matte black packaging.

Working with old magnetic tape recorders, hand made delay and sundry other electronic devices, Sten manipulates fragments of sound (e.g. a two note melodic interval or a final orchestral cadence) into brooding dark soundscapes, rich with overtones from feedback and often overlaid with guest performances from fellow Supersilent members. It is the very limitations of the equipment that Sten uses that become the sources for the beautiful timbres he produces: an over-saturated tape input, a primitive sampler that never reproduces the same note the same way twice or the uneven decay from primitive tape delays. Two tracks in particular from Treetop Drive deviate from this template through a six minute narration from American born Oslo resident Matt Burt and a couple tracks of an organ, vibes and drum trio not unlike Bo Hansson or a voodoo ensemble that David Lynch might incorporate into one his movies. More typical are tracks which blossom out from a single cell of an idea: one chord, or one blast of noise. At times Deathprod sounds almost like an attempt at recreating Thomas Koner's soundscapes using the audio palette of Maurizio Bianchi.

Deathprod - Morals And Dogma 2xLP

Deathprod - Morals And Dogma 2xLP (Smalltown Supersound)

Our Review:

Deathprod is the existentially bleak solo project of Helge Sten, who is also a key member of both Supersilent and Motorpsycho. In 2004, Rune Grammofon published a 4CD box-set compendium of Deathprod's work that was recorded between 1991 and 2000. Housed in an matte black box with a all black artwork and the sparest of text, this anthology presented itself as a semantic void, with nothing but the harrowing orchestrations of controlled noise and brooding atmosphere into Deathprod's oeuvre. This reissue campaign from Smalltown Supersound marks the first time any of these recordings have been on vinyl. Like before with the CD box-set, this too is enshrouded in matte black packaging.

Working with old magnetic tape recorders, hand made delay and sundry other electronic devices, Sten manipulates fragments of sound (e.g. a two note melodic interval or a final orchestral cadence) into brooding dark soundscapes, rich with overtones from feedback and often overlaid with guest performances from fellow Supersilent members. It is the very limitations of the equipment that Sten uses that become the sources for the beautiful timbres he produces: an over-saturated tape input, a primitive sampler that never reproduces the same note the same way twice or the uneven decay from primitive tape delays. Typical are tracks which blossom out from a single cell of an idea: one chord, or one blast of noise. At times Deathprod sounds almost like an attempt at recreating Thomas Koner's soundscapes using the audio palette of Maurizio Bianchi.

Morals And Dogma ranks as his best work through his elegantly desolate dronescapes. On "Dead People's Things," the most sorrowful of melodies is played on a Theremin over a foundation of delicate, scratchy bowing of violin and a deep bass throbbing drone. "Orgone Donor" consists of a slowly shifting chordal drone of whispy violins, harmonium and saw, with each instrument leading and then resolving the chord in turn.

Deathprod - Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha LP

Deathprod - Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha LP (Smalltown Supersound)

Our Review:

Deathprod is the existentially bleak solo project of Helge Sten, who is also a key member of both Supersilent and Motorpsycho. In 2004, Rune Grammofon published a 4CD box-set compendium of Deathprod's work that was recorded between 1991 and 2000. Housed in an matte black box with a all black artwork and the sparest of text, this anthology presented itself as a semantic void, with nothing but the harrowing orchestrations of controlled noise and brooding atmosphere into Deathprod's oeuvre. This reissue campaign from Smalltown Supersound marks the first time any of these recordings have been on vinyl. Like before with the CD box-set, this too is enshrouded in matte black packaging.

Working with old magnetic tape recorders, hand made delay and sundry other electronic devices, Sten manipulates fragments of sound (e.g. a two note melodic interval or a final orchestral cadence) into brooding dark soundscapes, rich with overtones from feedback and often overlaid with guest performances from fellow Supersilent members. It is the very limitations of the equipment that Sten uses that become the sources for the beautiful timbres he produces: an over-saturated tape input, a primitive sampler that never reproduces the same note the same way twice or the uneven decay from primitive tape delays. Typical are tracks which blossom out from a single cell of an idea: one chord, or one blast of noise. At times Deathprod sounds almost like an attempt at recreating Thomas Koner's soundscapes using the audio palette of Maurizio Bianchi.

On Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha, Sten went so far as to record tracks on a Nagra deck, transfer them to wax cylinders and then transfer them once more to digital media. The result are authentically old and decaying tracks which are hauntingly beautiful as well. Other tracks feature deteriorating blasts of what sounds almost like a fog horn progressively decaying into grinding metal; throbbing drones and eerie female chorus, taking cues from Ligeti's Lux Aeterna and building with layers of feedback into chilling washes of sound.

Shredded Nerve - In The Shadow Of What Never Was LP

Shredded Nerve - In The Shadow Of What Never Was LP (Chondritic Sound)

Our Review:

There's a specific act of American born terrorism which serves as the conceptual framework for this meditation on violence through sounds. Back in 1983, David and Doris Young took 153 people hostage at a school in Cokeville, Wyoming; yet their gasoline bomb unexpectedly exploded, severely injuring Doris. David aborted their plans to start a revolution by ransoming the schoolchildren for two million dollars by killing his wife and himself, leaving behind a number of questions as to why this tragedy had to happen. David Young did leave behind a convoluted manifesto entitled "Zero Equals Infinity", along with a checkered past of mental illness from both him and Doris. Shredded Nerve uses this gruesome chapter of American history as a subject to dwell and ruminate upon for this LP of gnarled electronics, nightmarish tape-loop hypnogogia and dystopian metallic klang. The restraint of these recordings is noteworthy given how easy it would be to take this to a theatrical extremes, positing the structures and compositions somewhat close to the realm of Small Cruel Party or the early convolutions from irr. app. (ext.), if Waldron were reinterpreted by Aaron Dilloway. Another exceptional document from Chondritic Sound!

Liebestod - Beta Male LP

Liebestod - Beta Male LP (Chondritic Sound)

Our Review:

Jesse Sanes presents Liebestod as his fully realized Power Electronics project, one that parallels his role as frontman for the nihilist hardcore outfit Hoax. A violent intensity and spilt blood carry over in both projects, even as the vehicles are radically different. It must be noted that Sanes has collaborated with Puce Mary as Fejhed and JH1.FS3, whose two recordings mine a controlled malevolence through synth noise and heavily processed voice. Such is also the strategy for Liebestod, through which Sanes hangs an electric dread upon the voltage controlled blurts, junkyard metal-bashing, and scalding flames of white noise. Leibestod's psychological / conceptual position on Beta Male seems outside the typical poetics of sexual control and/or extremist political chest-thumping, scribing instead an existential crisis with Sanes standing at odds with everything and everybody, including himself. It makes for a brilliant if disturbing album, one that mirrors a similar plight found in Maurizio Bianchi's first fruits in the '80s applied through a brooding regimentation akin to Anenzephalia. As such, this album gets our highest recommendation, settling next to Puce Mary's The Spiral as one of the best noise albums of 2016.

Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me 3xLP

Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me 3xLP (Drag City)

Our Review:

Have One On Me is the magnum opus, triple album from Joanna Newsom, finding her as visionary, intimate and extraordinary as ever! She has earned and deserved the right to require her listeners to luxuriate in her sounds, to have the patience and to focus their full attention on her record while listening. This isn't the sort of record you just casually throw on in a room full of people and quickly make a judgment about, it's a nuanced, dense and meticulously crafted sprawling work that requires a little dedication.

While she will always be known for her extraordinary harp playing, Have One On Me shows her integrating the harp more seamlessly with other instrumentation. There are plenty of piano, moments of sweeping soundscapes and commanding drums; but not to fear, the majestic harp still shines through. While initial reviews keep throwing around Joni Mitchell comparisons, we don't feel that at all; instead we do feel a huge Kate Bush influence at work, much, much more so than any of her previous releases. The way in which the songs are crafted in such an intimate manner, and the surprise moments of a song when an eruption of sound comes when least expected. Being that many of us here are huge Kate Bush admirers, we love seeing someone follow in her footsteps with equal intelligence, sophisticated word play and deep running emotion.

Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky LP

Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky LP (Young God)

Our Review:

Michael Gira has made his point that Swans has been reactivated, and that this is not a reunion. The distinction may be important to Gira, but it's pretty clear that he doesn't want the world to think he's jumping on the bandwagon of every cool band from the '80s and '90s getting back together again. But the fact remains that Swans dissolved back in 1997, and Gira took some of the Swans musicians at that time to form his grizzled folk ensemble Angels Of Light. Given the acoustic songs that Gira would sometimes wrangle as a counterpoint to Swans' signature brutality, the transition for Gira from Swans into Angels was a logical one. Over time, Angels developed into a lush ensemble with twinkling psychedelic aspects of a bright baroque aesthetic never revealed in the harrowing, abject tracks from Swans.

In early 2009, Gira embarked on a solo tour, showcasing a bunch of new material that seemed to be harkening back to the sound and fury of Swans, in spite of their minimalist presentation through just acoustic guitar and voice. On more than one occasion Gira quipped that he was thinking of making another Swans record. And that brings us to My Father Will Guide Me, ushered forth by a squadron of atonal guitars and lumbering percussive crashes. The album really does sound like it could have been produced in 1999, right after Soundtracks For The Blind, which was thought to be the final studio record for Swans. Sure, there's no Jarboe (for the obvious reasons that they part ways in their personal relationship), but Gira did recruit guitarist Norman Westberg to return to the fold. He was responsible for the guitar sound for the band from Filth up through White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity. That buzzsaw rasp which Westberg produced is very present in Swans resurrection, cutting through the thug-fist basslines and lockstep drum rolls. The sound of Swans is very much intact, but Gira's songwriting has constantly grown, with his booming voice still wailing doom and gloom through the lens of an American apocalypticist. Devendra Banhart also makes a guest appearance on a track equally noted for its discordantly brash trombones and trumpets with their resembles to dive-bombing arcs. If only every band that got back together could make a record with this much intensity, drama and power.

Swans - The Seer 3xLP

Swans - The Seer 3xLP (Young God)

Our Review:

Swans, Version 2.0 continues with The Seer, and how could it not be monstrous, epic, and utterly all-consuming? When Michael Gira reactivated the Swans several years ago, he did so with the intent of constantly touring the band, who furiously and methodically pounded through every set with Gira devilishly commanding to his band "More, you fuckers, MORE!!!" The songs which dominated the universally acclaimed 2010 album My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky became grotesquely engorged during the live sets, with each track telescoping in length and straining with each note, each rhythmic smash made more intense than the previous one. The shows were exhausting from the perspective of the audience, and Gira's marathon-length sprint must have been hell on the band. But unlike previous incarnations of Swans, it was obvious that Michael Gira was full of joy in orchestrating all of this controlled mayhem.

So, we come to The Seer - an album devised as a template malleable to the pressures of the Swans live performances for their 2012 tour schedule. Even outside the context of the forecasted mutation, The Seer is a beast of an album. The opening number "Lunacy" is a brightly charged march through dissonant guitar monochords and militaristic snares, before giving over to a wild-eyed chorale featuring the vocal talents of Mimi and Alan Sparhawk of Low. With Gira in charge, the emotional fragility that's emblematic of Low becomes lupine in its collective howl. "Mother Of The World" reprises the jackbooted rhythms found on the first Swans records, with a jagged guitar chord scraping bloodily against the unrelenting groove. The title track itself is a 32 minute piece that lesser bands would have used as an entire album with its massive crescendos of drone-rock pummel crashing down to a doomic plod and extended passages of slumped distortion, as something of a breather before ripping into another frenzy of gleeful obliteration.

With the much ballyhooed appearance of Karen O on the brief, lilting number "Song For A Warrior," we have more of an intermission for the band to shake out their arms and ears before Gira launches into another lengthy percussive workout, which is exactly what he does on "Avatar." Lockstep grooves for drums and bells rise up through a drone-rock ascent of guitars, bass and vocals uttering languid melodies throughout before Gira commands the drummers into an furious crescendo of control, power and noise. "A Piece Of The Sky" slowly unfurls through a shimmering drone density with plenty of Ligetti references but is probably also a thoughtful homage to Gira's amphetamine driven deconstruction on the brilliant Body Lovers side project from 1998, with a temperate Swans lurching forward into a near symphonic ballad. The finale "The Apostate" is a 24-minute vehicle for the screeching drones of lapsteel player Kristof Hahn, emitting dive-bombing raids across the throttled basslines, yelped vocals and of course those interlocked rhythms.

So yeah, The Seer is just as good as everybody has been saying.

Swans - Filth LP

Swans - Filth LP (Young God)

Our Review:

Filth. An aptly named album for a time and a place and a band. Swans' first full album came out in 1983 from the gritty underbelly of New York City, before Guiliani has kicked out all the freaks, criminals and artists. The sound of Swans engorged the primal violence and psychological dread that had been first broadcast under the banner of No Wave a few years earlier. Led by the tyrannical Michael Gira, who probably only learned how to crack a smile some 15 years after the inception of Swans, barked and grunted lyrics which might be easier read as agitprop slogans, decrying the perceived imbalances of power through sex, money, depravity and (later) religion. He controlled and commanded his band to perform pummeling excesses of rhythmic brutality with lurching basslines and atonal splashes of guitar shards forming the barest sense of what could pass for a melody. At the time of Filth, Gira had two thugs - Roli Mosimann and Jonathan Kane - behind drum kits, augmenting their panzerkorps marches with bloodyknuckled sheets of metal tossed into that engine at unpredictable moments and angles. For all of the furious muscularity and self-inflicted violence of Filth, Swans could color their claustrophobic slabs of sound with empathizing spells of existential misery. "Power For Power" is probably the best example of this, with guitarist Normal Westberg (the longest standing member of Swans aside from Gira) chopping the melody that could very be knocking on the door of The Stooges' raga-dirge "We Will Fall". It should also be noted that John Gossard swiped the title "Weakling" for his cult black metal band, and like Gira, used the term not to self-identify but as a damning epithet. The song itself is a depressive trudge of basslines alternating with dissonant guitars, shoved along by a strangely spry rhythm from one of the drummers.

Filth still stands as one of the great achievements of an already highly acclaimed band. It's never been an easy listen, and never will be.

Loop - Heaven's End LP

Loop - Heaven's End LP (Reactor)

Our Review:

Loop formed in the mid '80s around the axis of frontman Robert Hampson with drummer John Wills and bassist Neil MacKay, embracing a claustrophobic, black leather take on space rock powering through the motorik grooves of the Krautrock pioneers and the juggernaut riffs from the MC5 and the Stooges. Loop would find themselves embroiled in a rivalry with fellow British psyche-rock iconoclasts Spacemen 3. While the acrimony may have been hyped more than was truly present, Loop and Spacemen 3 did develop into much better bands perhaps through this rivalry while veering along different career paths. During the early days from both projects, the rhythm section locks into one hell of a memorable riff, punctuated by tremolo-delayed guitar squeals, whammy-bar bent melodies and snarled vocals of variable states of intelligibility. Buzz, noise, drugs, booze and black energy went into both, with Spacemen 3 steering towards a transcendent bliss and Loop plunging into the heart of darkness. Heaven's End is the debut for Loop and is the only album that closely shares a collective sensibility with Spacemen 3. The opening track "Soundhead" with its spirited psyche-noise grooves became an eponym for Loop die-hards, which is also the name of band's fanclub. "Straight To Your Heart" and the album's title tracks are quintessential Loop as Hampson alternates between vocals and his throttled, wah-wah guitar solos as Willis and MacKay propel through their cosmic machined space-rock heaviness. The album draws to a perfect end with a sample from 2001, A Space Odyssey of the computer Hal stating in monotone: "My mind is going." An absolutely essential album!

Joanna Newsom - Divers 2xLP

Joanna Newsom - Divers 2xLP (Drag City)

Our Review:

It's impossible to listen Joanna Newsom casually, and you can never rely on first impressions with her music. In fact as much as some of us here deeply love her albums, there is always a resigned feeling of an endurance test at first, that slowly lets up through repeated listens, until it wears in on you quite nicely. Once comfortable in its structure, its labyrinthian nuances set up like traps of discovery and the overall effect is like a garden just coming to bloom. Divers sits somewhere between her last two records, a couple of long jewel-laden epics, but mostly shorter and more digestible songs. Not as rife with emotion and symbolic as Ys, but more complexly intricate than the '70s California song cycle of Have One On Me.

The hooting sound of an owl opens and closes the album suggesting an autumnal shift in mood. Indeed Divers reads like an album to be played over a long night, from dusk to dawn. For starters, the piano (as well as Fender Rhodes and harpsichord) dominate. Her signature harp doesn't appear until the third song and though it has a strong presence on Divers as a whole, Newsom seems to want to appear less attached to it, or showcase other talents instead, in which there are plenty here. The orchestrations are incredibly arranged without overwhelming the songs, and her voice and song structures are definitely moving more into Kate Bush territory. It may also be the first time she has tackled a cover, the traditional folk song, "Same Old Man" sung most famously before by Karen Dalton on her second album, and she delivers it beautifully.

Fennesz - Venice 2xLP

Fennesz - Venice 2xLP (Touch)

Our Review:

Christian Fennesz' 2001 album Endless Summer firmly established him as one of the electronic avant-garde's greats with his delirious balance of hotwired digital glitches and a nostalgic revisitation of summery pop sensibilities. The assimilation of overloaded digital filtering technologies and guitar driven song fragments has continued to be Fennesz' strongest asset through his celebrated arrangements for David Sylvian's 2003 Blemish album and a collaborative effort with Sparklehorse. According to Asphodel's Naut Humon, Venice was almost a doomed project, as Fennesz' hard drive crashed less than a month before he needed to deliver the record to Touch. With about a quarter of the album salvageable, he scrambled to reassemble the album from memory. While it's hard to say if this time constraint benefited or detracted from his process, the album itself is stunningly good. Just as Endless Summer channelled the acid fried spirit of Brian Wilson, Venice also finds itself an album with a muse: Kevin Shields. There have always been short-circuited elements of My Bloody Valentine shot from Fennesz' tricked out guitar sound, but Venice pushes Fennesz affection for shoegaze's bucolic atmospheres and sublime melodies to the forefront with marvelous results. Each song appears to be nerve-rattlingly familiar; yet just as Endless Summer invoked Brian Wilson without ever resorting to self-conscious quotation, each of his tracks glides along the same oceanic currents authored by Slowdive, AR Kane, Ride, Loveliescrushing and The Cocteau Twins. Again, no direct references can be heard in Venice, rather Fennesz taps directly into the hopelessly romantic sentimentality of shoegazing and replicates it perfectly behind a light dusting of digital pixels. Venice stood as one of the finest electronic albums of 2004; and it's still an excellent album a decade later, now fleshed out in its 10th Anniversary vinyl edition with two short bonus tracks of pastoral, pixelated blur, "The Future Will Be Different" and "Tree", presumably recorded at the same time.

Swans - Love Of Life LP

Swans - Love Of Life LP (Young God)

Our Review:

The necessary vinyl reissue of the 1992 album Love Of Life! A propulsive, almost jubilant Swans is heard here, foreshadowing the Americana twang that Gira would later adopt in the Angels Of Light after Swans called it quits in the late '90s. Gira's great trick on this album is that he layers his shimmering, chiming guitars into slowly building walls of dissonant harmonics that rasp out of the acoustic instrumentation. It's a much more sophisticated dynamic than the emaciated bombast of such claustrophobic Swans recordings like Greed and Holy Money; and comparatively, it makes for a more subtle incarnation of Swans, even when Gira implores his multiple drummers to hammer away at their kits with militaristic flair and insistent rumbling.

Swans - White Light From the Mouth Of Infinity 2xLP

Swans - White Light From the Mouth Of Infinity 2xLP (Young God)

Our Review:

The necessary vinyl reissue of the 1991 album White Light From the Mouth Of Infinity! Swans were in a time of transition, after what M. Gira considered an epic failure in their one and only major label release, The Burning World (1989), and it is also worth noting that founding member / guitarist Norman Westberg had parted ways with Swans at this juncture. The tempered acoustic strum that Gira first mapped out on The Burning World carries over as the much more aggressive underpinning of the crashing hypno-drone-rock of much of White Light, most dramatically cast in the downer blues ballad "Failure" and the J.G. Thirwell co-produced drum-corps march of "Power & Sacrifice". The lilting jangle of the guitars and the brightly rendered drones that hang throughout both that album and Love Of Life counterpoints Gira's booming vocals, all of which helps to conjure a very triumphant Swans sound, effectively surging with huge crescendos of texture and density out of monolithic chords, riffs and rhythms.

Swans - The Great Annihilator 2xLP

Swans - The Great Annihilator 2xLP (Young God)

Our Review:

The exhausting discography of Swans arguably can be broken into four distinct facets of their uncompromising, brutalist avant-rock practices. The first fruits from Cop and Filth are rightly described as "a deeply repulsive form of audio pornography" with the aggressively barked vocals from Michael Gira who directs a muscular thud of tactical assaults, neither punk nor metal, but an abject creature of its own making. Children Of God and the World Of Skin side project marked an early middle period for Swans in the late '80s, shedding some of their purposeful ugliness in favor of expansive dirges that matched a more complex mythological content, with a sublime and thoroughly ashen beauty. During the '90s, Swans brought a baroque density to their constant crescendos of noise, riff and drone through a series of albums that included The Great Annihilator from 1995. Just two years after the release of this album, Swans dissolved through the end of a relationship between the Gira and Swans' Jarboe. Well over a decade later, Gira re-energized Swans in the brilliant late-period chapter to the band with a monstrous line-up that included the original guitarist Norman Westberg but without Jarboe.

As each of these periods is marked by a singular triumphant album, The Great Annihilator stands at the pinnacle of the third period for the Swans. The militant goose step rhythms remain as punishing as ever, but have been subjected to the all-encompassing swarm of buzz-saw guitar, bass and keyboard drones. Yet amidst these dense orchestrations, the interlocking vocals of Gira (with his commanding baritone) and Jarboe (with her lilting theatricality) adeptly counter the jagged fury of the multiple guitar arsenals. For the 2017 reissue, The Great Annihilator has been entirely remastered from recently discovered unmastered session mixes. Michael Gira describes the discovery as "a revelation of great sonic effect." How true!

Aphex Twin - Syro 3xLP

Aphex Twin - Syro 3xLP (Warp)

Our Review:

Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, while undoubtedly considered one of the key figures within dance music and dance culture, simultaneously manages to both celebrate and mock, or at least have fun with, that very same dance music and dance culture. He has one foot firmly planted on the dancefloor while he uses the other to give dance music a good kick in the ass. This couldn't be more true than on Syro, which actually might be his most danceable album in years, maybe ever. Whereas albums like, Richard D. James, I Care Because You Do and Drukqs, might make you think you can dance to them before throwing you horribly out of step, it's conceivable that one could actually dance to the songs on Syro, without missing a beat. This might initially suggest that Syro might be Aphex Twin's least adventurous album, his most conventional to date. Of course, it could be pointed out, that relative to his other albums, the idea of Aphex Twin making a straightforward dance record is in itself sort of adventurous. If only it was that simple, if only Syro was in fact a straightforward dance record. Aphex Twin's music is more interested in subverting and somehow actually drawing our attention to the way in which we can be manipulated by that repetition. That may be more true than ever on Syro, simply because this record might actually get you to dance. But just when you start to get lost in a groove, something alien and ominous will creep in, like a spider letting you know that you've been caught in it's web. These moments, of which there are plenty, make it clear that if you came to this particular dance party expecting the usual bit of the ol' bump-n-grind, then you should prepare to have your expectations confounded constantly. These moments are akin to being at a party when the acid starts to kick in and things begin to get a bit strange.

There is a lot about Syro as a whole, that brings to mind Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker". It's not that any one song is that sonically similar to "Windowlicker", although many of the songs do juxtapose dance tropes with weirder, more experimental sounds, in a way that does seem similar. But what Syro has in common with "Windowlicker" is actually more philosophical and has more to do with the content of the Chris Cunningham directed video, than the song itself. The way in which the two male protagonists show up to an Aphex Twin "hosted" "dance party", with the expectation of having nothin' but a good time, only to be caught off guard by something far stranger, and to their sensibilities, far more disturbing. This album, much in the same way, is constantly disturbing and defying any expectations of where the listener thinks it might go. Take a song like "180 db", which aside from the wavering and almost sickly tone in the background (which might already be saying something), comes across as a straight ahead banger. But just when things seem to be getting a bit too normal, this most "normal", and perhaps tellingly shortest, of all the tracks, leads into one of the strangest intros on the record, namely the tweaked "AFX 237V7" A.K.A. "Rubber Johnny"-like vocals of "Circlont 6A". Not that Aphex Twin is any stranger to confounding expectations, he's been doing it his whole career, it's just that on Syro, he might be doing it in a way that is surprisingly, and subversively subtle.

Edvard Graham Lewis - All Over LP

Edvard Graham Lewis - All Over LP (Editions Mego)

Our Review:

One of two concurrently released albums from Wire's eccentric bassist / vocalist Edvard Graham Lewis. Even through the lens of Wire's situationist post-punk and avant-pop eccentricities, the solo and side projects for Lewis were almost always well beyond the scope of Wire's amorphous signature. Dome was an early investigation into proto-electronica and disjointed industrial bricolage, and then there was the contorted romanticism of '80s balladeering through the under-appreciated He Said moniker.

Where the companion album All Under is the more abstract and (slightly more) unconventional, All Over finds Lewis returning to his capacity for penning some brilliantly weird avant-pop numbers. The overall feel of the album is sunk in a liquid narcosis that runs parallel to the blurring miasma of shoegazing; but Lewis doesn't drown his work in reverb. It's a great trick to build something hypnotizing though a skeletal synth & guitar pop context. "We've Lost Your Mind" girds a motorik click track of Oval-like glitching with a minor-chord jangle that harkens back to A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck era Wire if it were recorded today. "The Start Of Next Week" is a fabulous piece of dark techno that could fit somewhere near Silent Servant or Surgeon. The dubbed-out tropical ditty "Quick Skin" pools Lewis' vocals into layers of overlapping delay patterns with a tinny rhumba and chicken-scratch guitars channelling the spirit of Brian Eno's Another Green World, albeit with a darker color palette. Other tracks do push the abstraction with a few tracks sounding similar to what :zoviet*france: would make if given the challenge to make a 'pop' record circa 1988. Like All Under, this is brilliant.

Edvard Graham Lewis - All Under LP

Edvard Graham Lewis - All Under LP (Editions Mego)

Our Review:

One of two concurrently released albums from Wire's eccentric bassist / vocalist Edvard Graham Lewis. Even through the lens of Wire's situationist post-punk and avant-pop eccentricities, the solo and side projects for Lewis were almost always well beyond the scope of Wire's amorphous signature. Dome was an early investigation into proto-electronica and disjointed industrial bricolage, and then there was the contorted romanticism of '80s balladeering through the under-appreciated He Said moniker. There were also plenty of one-off collaborations with various Swedes throughout the '90s (H-A-L-O, He Said Omala, Hox, etc.) and one hell of a great collaboration with John Duncan.

That Duncan / Lewis album immediately jumps to mind upon first listens to All Under, a compendium of soundtrack work and ephemera recorded at various times over the past 13 years. The eerily paranoiac blips of phasing shortwave radio broadcasts fire across the first two tracks of All Under, both of which are variations on work composed for a multi-channel video piece by Gunilla Leander. These electrical flurries, flecked with irradiated ash and attenuated glitches, are shaped from the droning data-streaming into mercurial melodic ambience that wouldn't be out of place on Aphex Twin's dreamtime masterpiece Selected Ambient Works Volume II. "The Eel Wheeled" again reflects similarities to that Duncan collaborative record, with Lewis slowly reciting one of his bizarre assemblages (which also form the basis for Wire's lyrics, even those sung by Colin Newman). His Burroughs / Gibson / Dick inspired sci-fi fragmentation with his baritone voice elegantly sitting amidst his discordant collage, projecting an ominous sound of a crumbling society being sucked into its virtual self. The finale is another soundtrack piece "No Show Godot," draping wisps of arctic noise onto a soft rhythmic chatter as Lewis slowly unveils a blossoming radiant drone that terminates at the unveiling of a long-form drone-pop number for ritualized pulse, blurs of fourth-world vocal exoticism, Sub-Saharan cinematic nods, and Lewis commanding a subdued industrial mantra akin to an opiated version of Muslimgauze. Like All Over, this is brilliant.

Fennesz - Endless Summer 2xLP

Fennesz - Endless Summer 2xLP (Editions Mego)

Our Review:

Endless Summer is the classic piece of abstracted electronica from Christian Fennesz, first released in 2001. It's an album that received considerable acclaim at the time, though little could be known of how influential the album would become and how much of an impact it would have on the realms of the avant-garde and electronic music at large.

Fennesz has always produced what we had imagined should be the salvation for experimental electronica - an ever vigilant, but necessarily shifting search for balance. As Fennesz does incorporate the guitar quite a bit into his creative process, there is a finely tuned balance between rock and electronica archetypes. However, his egalitarian views of intention and execution, dissonance and melody, metaphor and metonym, structure and arrhythmia, analog and digital, warm and cool are exactly what electronica needs.

Fennesz' third album - the aptly titled Endless Summer - picks up where his breakthrough EP of Rolling Stones / Beach Boys covers left off with a digital dispersion of "fun in the sun" rock mythologies. While there are no obviously discernible pop culture references, Fennesz builds a sound that really is quite summery from odd duets between disintegrating acoustic guitar strums and the coalescence of digital errata. Thus, this album has the feeling of the classic Beach Boys sound, but very little of that structure. These are NOT Beach Boys covers, but if he said they were, we'd have no basis to call him a liar. Regardless, Fennesz's Endless Summer is a stunning record.

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!

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!

Bruce Haack - Electric Lucifer Book II LP

Bruce Haack - Electric Lucifer Book II LP (Telephone Explosion)

Our Review:

This is the previously unreleased 1979 sequel to Bruce Haack's 1969 Electric Lucifer, perhaps the most awesomely bizarre psychedelic pre-Kraftwerk electronica album ever to be released on a major label (Columbia) or elsewhere. The robotic voices and mechanical rhythms that made the first Electric Lucifer such a cult kitsch classic are still present on Book II, although it's perhaps more poppy and goofy and less disturbingly weird than its predecessor. Aside from that one (not-too-successful) major label release, Haack's career from the '60s through the early '80s focused on self-released electronic children's records, which while certainly amusing (and of interest for his innovative home-built synths), of course don't come close to the trippy electro-rock and serious religious themes of the Electric Lucifer concept.

Bruce Haack - Haackula LP

Bruce Haack - Haackula LP (Telephone Explosion)

Our Review:

Wow. This is a real "believe it or not" release. Haackula lives up to its billing as a "lost classic of outsider electronica" for sure. The album is playful, perverse and perhaps more than a little bit paranoid. Bruce Haack unleashed his Moogs (and warped imagination) in his bedroom studio to create Haackula back in 1978, but it remained officially unreleased until now. Possibly because a large portion of Haack's discography consists of records for children, we were really surprised by the R-rated content of Haackula, including the resplendent moog-pop tune "Blow Job." Perhaps this is why it never saw the light of day in Haack's lifetime. Haack's synths and rhythm machines bleep and bloop, shuffle and shudder, conjuring an alternate universe of electronic computer funk wackier and weirder and way more off-kilter than anything Kraftwerk was up to at the time. The musical sense of childlike innocence with which Haack was so adept is still happening here. These tracks are as tuneful and catchy as ever, but his mystical ideas are joined by sexual themes. Where The Electric Lucifer was astrological, Haackula is scatological. Adult realities are confronting the outsider, making Haackula's haunted house electronics all the more eerie, while the bizzaro-factor (plus Haack's aforementioned songwriting skills) insure that it's all very entertaining, gleefully so.

And if Haackula itself wasn't cool enuff, there two equally mindblowing bonus tracks. First there's Bruce Haack's 1982 proto-hip-hop collaboration with Def Jam's Russell Simmons, an 8 minute track entitled "Party Machine" that features funky Herbie Hancock "rockit" style grooves and deep distorted vocals laying down such science as "Haack attack is back... Bruce Haack... Anti-wack." Damn!

Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine LP

Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine LP (Kling Klang)

Our Review:

The Man-Machine was originally released in 1978, a year after the artistic and commercial triumph of Trans-Europe Express. Obviously there was a lot to live up to following that album, and Kraftwerk had little difficulty doing so. The Man-Machine is likewise a genre-defining masterpiece, containing at least two of their most well known songs with "The Robots" and "The Model." It also features one of their strangely overlooked songs, the too-awesome-for-words "Spacelab". The cold, mechanical approach Kraftwerk had been striving for is perfected on this record, also expertly conveyed from a visual standpoint on the cover, where the group appears all angular and unsmiling in their matching red shirt/black tie getup. It's pretty crazy to imagine the reaction this must have received right in the middle of the punk explosion. As the rest of the world reveled in sloppy, wide-eyed rock n' roll, Kraftwerk became more precise and jettisoned the most recognizable traces of human emotion usually reserved for the pop market. Still, though the most noteworthy traits here bring to mind a glum, dystopian future, like on the title track and the ominous "Metropolis", there is also a good deal of humor and an implied human warmth, as Kraftwerk themselves, more than anything, take the role of detached observers in a world that defines itself more and more through technological progress.

Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express LP

Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express LP (Kling Klang)

Our Review:

Arguably, Kraftwerk's best recording, Trans-Europe Express from 1977 marries the Kosmische minimalism of the Ralf and Florian record with the technological sublime sound of Autobahn while at the same time foreshadowing the robotic dance pop of The Man-Machine and Computer World. We also see for the first time, the image of the band as a uniform commodity dealing with post-modern themes of surface, reflection, repetition and reproduction that would thoroughly dominate their later output.

Roedelius - Durch Die Wuste LP

Roedelius - Durch Die Wuste LP (Bureau B)

Our Review:

Durch Die Wuste was the first solo outing by Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster/Harmonia fame, originally out on 1978 on the always impeccable Sky label. Melding his tastes for classical composition, spaced out ambience and electronic rock possibilities, this album found Roedelius simmering in warm rolling waves that just invite you to get lost and daydream in their subtly hypnotic pull. What's most amazing and compelling about this album is how organic it all sounds. Years before folks were really getting a grasp of how to intertwine traditional instrumentation with electronics, Roedelius was doing it masterfully. We're also so taken by the divine percussive quality that rises to the surfaces on lots of the album, especially the record's last two songs where Roedelius manages to play the drums himself and creates an amazing orbital groove that we could listen to forever. Durch Die Wuste manages to combine both his more dark and outsider tendencies with his ability to create the ultimate in shimmering cosmic bliss. This clearly stands up against any of Cluster's breathtaking moments. Highly recommended!

Roedelius - Offene Turen LP

Roedelius - Offene Turen LP (Bureau B)

Our Review:

Offene Turen (Open Doors), Roedelius's little known fifth album from 1982 and is definitely not like the others. Often considered his "experimental" record, this album was completed shortly after the Cluster record Curiosum. It sometimes seems as if he wanted to make a record through the eyes of his more taciturn partner, Moebius. While it doesn't quite have Moebius's way with mechanical musical calibrations, the vibe is more stark and atmospheric and the closest we've heard any of the Cluster clan come to sounding cinematically proggy in the vein of John Carpenter and Goblin. Lots of church organ sounds and bell tones with an occasional glimpse into Roedelius's classical romantic side. Definitely one of the weirder records in the Cluster canon, there's lots to love, from songs that are seriously spooky and to other tracks that are charmingly naive experiments with the newest (at the time) digital tech.

Roedelius - Wenn Der Sudwind Weht LP

Roedelius - Wenn Der Sudwind Weht LP (Bureau B)

Our Review:

Roedelius's fourth solo record from 1981 has obvious connections to his first record Durch Die Wuste as evidenced from the similar album covers involving feet and water. But while his first record was a head-first dive into exploring the palatable possibilities of mixing acoustic and electronic instruments, Wenn Der Sudwind Weht is all about the tranquil relaxed after-glow, drying off in the afternoon sun. Limiting the instruments to just organ, synthesizers and piano, Sudwind is surprisingly rich and layered and arguably the most stunning of his solo records, reminding us of the pastoralism of Popol Vuh and early Deuter, but never succumbing to new age music's typical lack of focus. In fact, this may be the most essential of the Roedelius solo records. Highest recommendation!

Kraftwerk - Radio-Activity LP

Kraftwerk - Radio-Activity LP (Kling Klang)

Our Review:

1975's Radio-Activity is the first album where Kraftwerk became Kraftwerk as history knows them. It introduced their classic lineup and did away all acoustic instrumentation (believe it or not, there were actually some guitars on Autobahn), and is the perfect precursor to Trans Europe Express, arguably their finest moment. Like all Kraftwerk albums, this one is highly conceptual, with a dual emphasis on radio-activity from a scientific standpoint and the emergence of the new(ish) culture based around the radio. Even with its moments of darkness, Radio-Activity may also be one of Kraftwerk's most "fun" albums, with the joyful pop propulsion of "Airwaves" and the playful minimalism of "Antenna". Then there is the title track, a masterpiece of slowly brooding German melancholy if there ever was one. This is the album where the band truly found themselves able to consolidate their more experimental tendencies into a solidly pop format, resulting in truly imaginative and original music. It's strange that as the group became more poppy, they also became weirder and developed a sound that was pretty much unprecedented. But hey, that's how Kraftwerk does things.

Kraftwerk - Autobahn LP

Kraftwerk - Autobahn LP (Kling Klang)

Our Review:

Autobahn was originally released in 1974, and it was in most cases the band's introduction to the rest of the world with the surprise hit single of the title track, edited down significantly for airplay. It was also the point where Kraftwerk began to combine a classic pop approach with their intense Teutonic experimentation (which remains considerable here). What was seen by some people in the mid-1970s as somewhat of a novelty; however, laid the foundation for one of the most innovative music groups to ever exist. Clocking in at almost 23 minutes, "Autobahn" may be one of the most evocative songs ever, especially considering how minimal it really is. Synthesizers give you the impression of traveling throughout Germany by car, through many different environments and observational states, as the vocal melody classically apes the Beach Boys "Fun, Fun, Fun". The song also marked the beginning of the band's reliance on vocoders and drum machines, which would from this point forward would play an integral role in defining Kraftwerk. The other songs here retain many of the sonic qualities of earlier Kraftwerk, but it's now plainly apparent where things are heading: Pop Immortality!

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.

Roedelius - Jardin Au Fou LP

Roedelius - Jardin Au Fou LP (Bureau B)

Our Review:

The pastoral half of Cluster explores his penchant for French romanticism in this dazzling suite of spacious baroque minimalism from 1979. Produced with the assistance of Peter Baumann, Roedelius broadens his focus as a traditional composer and displays ample musicianship with an eclectic array of instrumentation: flutes cellos, pianos and harpsichords, steering away from the abstracting qualities of the sequencers and processors normally employed in his main group. There's a carnivalesque playfulness to the tracks here, suggesting carousels and waltzes, penny arcades, and street performers, but with a refined restraint that evades schmaltz. Like the perfect accompaniment to a Resnais film, each piece is a delightful handmade miniature strung together in a labyrinthian web.

Survive - s/t LP

Survive - s/t LP (Holodeck)

Our Review:

Here's the much needed reissue of the eponymous Survive LP, first published in 2013 and before the Austin outfit had an inkling they would be making such a big splash with the Stranger Things soundtrack. Survive mines a brooding alien proggy sound that comes close to early Cluster, Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler through synth-heavy arpeggiations, skittery beats and ghostly melodies with killer hooks. It's an awesome record that shows the fledgling sound of this evolving outfit still more fully realized then most veteran practitioners.

Performing Ferret Band - s/t LP

Performing Ferret Band - s/t LP (Beat Generation)

Our Review:

Originally released out of the UK on the band's own Pig Productions label in 1981, Performing Ferret Band's sole LP finally sees a proper reissue in its entirety. This record stands alone as perhaps the finest self-released vinyl full-length to emerge from the golden era of the late '70s/early '80s UK DIY movement. It certainly best exemplifies that primal porridge of rock, folk and experimental dole-queue-inspired genius – utilizing the lowest-tech instrumentation by default, which defines the DIY genre to this day.

The Ferrets LP uses a bare-bones electrified approach to create a spare, arid sound that draws the listener in with a sort of trembling anticipation akin to reading the next page of a stranger's diary. There is also that dash of daft music hall humor that runs deeply through much of the best British music of the last half-century. The band themselves credit influences from Captain Beefheart and The Velvet Underground.

This album fully deserves its legendary cult status, and this reissue should properly elevate the band's rep up there with fellow travelers such as The Desperate Bicycles, Television Personalities and The Good Missionaries. Mark E. Smith was apparently an enthusiastic fan as well, which is the toughest-earned recommendation one could hope to receive.

Limited edition of 500 copies includes insert with the band's story, photos and memorabilia.

Crass - Feeding Of The 5000 LP

Crass - Feeding Of The 5000 LP (Crassical Collection)

Our Review:

Legendary for a reason, Crass is the uncompromising anarcho-punk collective that has lived and breathed punk rock like few others. Starting in 1977, Crass not only recorded some of the most scalding and energetic punk, but they thrived putting on gigs, setting up squats, coordinating political actions, starting a label, creating art, making films, advocating for animal rights, environmentalism, feminism, direct action, anarchism, pacifism and protesting across the political spectrum.

Feeding Of The 5000 is the incendiary debut for Crass, originally released in 1978, and almost didn't come out, as the pressing plant refused to carry it due to the lyrical content of a song called "Asylum." This was to be the opening salvo to the record: an intense spoken word rallying cry against religion, filled with violent images and foul language, all over a field of buzzing feedback. But no plant would press the record and in turn Crass replaced the song with silence, in protest. Then and there, Crass decided to start their own label which then re-released the record the way it was initially envisioned. Feeding Of The 5000 still stands as a frantic chunk of pure punk rock, full of chaotic angular guitars, wild scowling urgent vox, caffeinated drumming, samples and snippets of spoken word. These songs manage to be angry and caustic and intense, but still catchy as hell. The lyrical vitriol reflect a relentless punk rock energy, just as energetic and as lyrically relevant as it was all the way back in 1978. Which speaks well of Crass, but not so well for the state of the world.

Alice Coltrane - World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda 2xLP

Alice Coltrane - World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda 2xLP (Luaka Bop)

Our Review:

The transcendent music of Alice Coltrane resonates deeper with each passing year. Through impressive releases on the Impulse! label in the late '60s and '70s, Coltrane has become one of the key figures in spiritually-aligned jazz. Even ten years after her death in 2007, Alice's legacy has retained its vital life-force largely because her music is informed by an elusive devotional mystique, which only grew stronger when the pianist/harpist retired to her Ashram outside of Los Angeles in the late '70s.

Luaka Bop's new series World Spirituality Classics focuses on this later period of Coltrane's work. The first title in the series – culled from cassettes recorded between 1982 and 1995 and originally only sold direct through the Ashram – immerses the listener instantly in the communal vibe mid-ritual. Ever-quickening clouds of jubilant group chants, hand-claps and warm synthesizers gradually unfold into Vedic hymns and soulful harmonies.

The real revelation here is Alice's solo voice, as this is the first time that she sings in her recorded catalogue. Coltrane's hypnotic vocalizations are understated, yet insistent and passionate. While mostly featuring later compositions, the record also includes an incredible revisiting of her best known piece, "Journey In Satchidananda," which starts off as a long processional and slowly opens up into a beautifully sonorous chorus.

Alice Coltrane's music is steeped in both gospel and Hindu traditions, but transmitted as if beamed from outer space. Ecstatic, indeed.

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!

Butthole Surfers - Hairway To Steven LP

Butthole Surfers - Hairway To Steven LP (Latino Bugger Veil)

Our Review:

Few bands have managed as perfect an opening career salvo as Texas drug addled psychedelic noise rock weirdos the Butthole Surfers. Sure lots of bands have pulled off a perfect debut. And of those, a handful somehow avoided the sophomore slump, and even then, a few managed to make a third record as good as the first two, but by record four, we're talking a very select few. One of those rare bands would indeed be the Butthole Surfers. Their first four records are pretty much untouchable, their 1984 debut, Psychic… Powerless… Another Man's Sac, 1986's Rembrandt Pussyhorse, Locust Abortion Technician from 1987, and finally 1988's Hairway To Steven. Each a very different, very dementedly fucked up beast, but each a stunning milestone in knuckle dragging outsider psychedelic drug rock.

Hairway To Steven, was the group's last truly great record, and truly great it is. Worth the price of admission alone for the opener "Jimi", with its thick, buzzy guitar, killer twisted psychedelic leads, garbled processed vocals, and Paul Leary's guitar playing is like a Texas drug rock burn out Hendrix. There's also the classic "I Saw An X-Ray Of A Girl Passing Gas", which sounds a little like R.E.M. after a bad batch of meth. There's the stream of consciousness WTF weirdness of "John E. Smoke", with some of Gibby's best lyrics by far, and more of Leary's amazing guitar playing, and of course "Backass" which is another track that displays the band as maybe way more accomplished than they pretend not to be, turning in a moody psychedelic dirge that's hypnotic and hauntingly lovely. And like the other Butthole records, that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Butthole Surfers - Locust Abortion Technician LP

Butthole Surfers - Locust Abortion Technician LP (Latino Bugger Veil)

Our Review:

Few bands have managed as perfect an opening career salvo as Texas drug addled psychedelic noise rock weirdos the Butthole Surfers. Sure lots of bands have pulled off a perfect debut. And of those, a handful somehow avoided the sophomore slump, and even then, a few managed to make a third record as good as the first two, but by record four, we're talking a very select few. One of those rare bands would indeed be the Butthole Surfers. Their first four records are pretty much untouchable, their 1984 debut, Psychic… Powerless… Another Man's Sac, 1986's Rembrandt Pussyhorse, Locust Abortion Technician from 1987, and finally 1988's Hairway To Steven. Each a very different, very dementedly fucked up beast, but each a stunning milestone in knuckle dragging outsider psychedelic drug rock.

Locust Abortion Technician might be the most famous/infamous Surfers record there is and might great place to start for newcomers. It's definitely the weirdest, with the least proper 'songs' and the most warped sonic experiments, starting with the oft quoted opening intro, culminating in Gibby howling "SATAN SATAN SATAN" before the band kick into their own damaged version of Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf", rechristened as "Sweat Loaf." Then we should skip ahead to "Human Cannonball", which is the Surfers at their poppiest, one of the catchiest jams in their arsenal. Were this by any other band, it would have been a massive hit. Then there's the truly terrifying "U.S.S.A", with some of the most intense and freaked out vocals ever, all over a weird bed of pulsing buzz, and balloon animal squeak. "Kuntz" is pretty much straight up sample of some Southeast Asian folk song, with just the chorus manipulated to accentuate the unfortunate refrain. On "22 Going On 23," the band takes a phone call to some sort of call in radio show, and sets it to some classic Buttholes dirgery, and transforms this poor woman's story into the 'lyrics,' for one of the most haunting and harrowing songs in their catalog. And somehow between all these classics, there's still even more killer stuff...

Butthole Surfers - Rembrandt Pussyhorse LP

Butthole Surfers - Rembrandt Pussyhorse LP (Latino Bugger Veil)

Our Review:

Few bands have managed as perfect an opening career salvo as Texas drug addled psychedelic noise rock weirdos the Butthole Surfers. Sure lots of bands have pulled off a perfect debut. And of those, a handful somehow avoided the sophomore slump, and even then, a few managed to make a third record as good as the first two, but by record four, we're talking a very select few. One of those rare bands would indeed be the Butthole Surfers. Their first four records are pretty much untouchable, their 1984 debut, Psychic… Powerless… Another Man's Sac, 1986's Rembrandt Pussyhorse, Locust Abortion Technician from 1987, and finally 1988's Hairway To Steven. Each a very different, very dementedly fucked up beast, but each a stunning milestone in knuckle dragging outsider psychedelic drug rock.

Rembrandt Pussyhorse found the Butthole's sound getting a little more polished, but no less demented, starting with "Creep In The Cellar", a haunting, malevolent tribal dirge, with some great lyrics, a wicked hook, and some wild, psychedelic fiddle playing that makes the song. And of course there's the Surfers version of the Guess Who's "American Woman", which has to be one of the greatest covers, with the woozy guitar, the heavily effected drum pummel, the weirdo vocals. the wicked blown out psych guitar courtesy of an unsung guitar hero, Paul Leary. It's totally genius, with some "Whirling Hall Of Knives" is creepy and weirdly lovely. On "TP Parter" who knows what the fuck is going on, or why it's so good. The same goes for every single song here.

Butthole Surfers - Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac LP

Butthole Surfers - Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac LP (Latino Bugger Veil)

Our Review:

Few bands have managed as perfect an opening career salvo as Texas drug addled psychedelic noise rock weirdos the Butthole Surfers. Sure lots of bands have pulled off a perfect debut. And of those, a handful somehow avoided the sophomore slump, and even then, a few managed to make a third record as good as the first two, but by record four, we're talking a very select few. One of those rare bands would indeed be the Butthole Surfers. Their first four records are pretty much untouchable, their 1984 debut, Psychic… Powerless… Another Man's Sac, 1986's Rembrandt Pussyhorse, Locust Abortion Technician from 1987, and finally 1988's Hairway To Steven. Each a very different, very dementedly fucked up beast, but each a stunning milestone in knuckle dragging outsider psychedelic drug rock.

"Concubine" starts things off with a detuned dirge with dueling tribal drumming and Gibby's hysterical insane vocals. The sound is loose, unhinged and crazy catchy. That really describes most of Psychic, but other highlights include "Negro Observer", which is one hell of catchy song ever moving into the old school punkiness of "Butthole Surfer", the stumbling, lumbering "Woly Boly," with its ridiculously demented vox. Then the record gets really good. "Lady Sniff" is a lurching sound effects loaded psychedelic dirge, with Gibby doing his best raspy bluesman vocals against the battery of scatological sound effects. Then in rolls "Cherub" which is like the Buttholes doing krautrock, all tranced out and motorik. A WTF classic.

Burial - s/t 2xLP

Burial - s/t 2xLP (Hyperdub)

Our Review:

This record totally knocked us for a loop as an impossible mix of grimy dubstep, murky triphop and minimal spaced out dub. When we first threw this on, we were immediately transported back to when we first heard Massive Attack or Portishead, when a whole new world suddenly opened up to us. This creepy, muted world of barebones beats and haunting atmospheres would go on to inspire legions of modern day electronic dub practitioners. This is the first release on Hyperdub, a label run by grime / dubstep DJ Kode9. We expected a blasting barrage of grimy beats. Instead, Burial conjured a swirling vortex of late night groove and midnight stutter. Think those Rhythm And Sound Burial Mix EPs, mixed with some Pole-like glitched-out dub and Portishead's slow-burning smolder. Creepy and crawly, mysterious and moody. Beats suspend in a black shimmering fog with snippets of vocals drenched in reverb. All of this chopped up and let loose to drift over super dark, muffled dubscapes. Huge rumbling bass lines, like distant foghorns, dreamy ambience sort of drifting and ethereal but so so ominous. Tiny sonic sparkles glimmer like some alien sonar, drifting dreamily through fuzzy darkness. Drowned and submerged grooves, all muffled muted melody and shuffling minimal beats. Suffocating atmospheres of low end thrum, record crackle and shortwave interference into a blackened glacial dub jam. So fucking awesome.

Burial - Untrue 2xLP

Burial - Untrue 2xLP (Hyperdub)

Our Review:

Record of the year, 2007. As far as some of us are concerned, there's no question. Burial's first album was an eponymous release on Kode 9's Hyperdub imprint and really came out of nowhere. Here was this amalgamation of British dance tropes (e.g. dubstep, 2-step garage, darkcore drum & bass, etc.) into a magnificent exercise in mood engineering. Even though an urban malaise echoes through the whollop bass-bin rattle of most dubstep, that first Burial record mined a melancholy whose dramatic power has never been heard in dubstep, and rarely matched even by such downbeat experts as Massive Attack, Boards of Canada, Slowdive, or even Joy Division. So with his second album Untrue, the aesthetic framework for Burial remains intact; yet the anonymous figure behind Burial has admitted that he was seeking a "downcast euphoria." You know what, he fucking nailed it. All of the sounds retain the first album's urban dourness reverberating through each electron and washed drone. The hovering basslines which once stalked the darkest of jungle's rhythms are ghostly presences flickering around Burial's atypical drum programming, which by his own admission is done by hand without the aid of a sequencer. The clipped, 2-step breakbeats always appear as the cocking of a gun; but it doesn't seem like Burial is taking aim at his audience. Rather, it's metaphor for the cold, inhumane existence in the grimy parts of London, where violence is just another thing to shrug at and move beyond. All of these sounds are clearly present in Burial's debut album, but the "euphoric" part of Untrue's intention is found in Burial's use of voice. Taking a cappella tunes sung by his friends (sometimes, left as a voice mail on his cellphone), Burial has crafted an eerie cast of disembodied vocals, twisted into cybernetic R&B croons, all clipped and compressed in the same manner as his pistol-whipped snare cracks. It's as if the human voice alone can transcend the dire circumstances of our earthly confines, even when the songs reflected broken dreams and a dwindling hope. Burial seeks out the fleeting moments of beauty and raw emotion, codifying it through his impeccable craft on this very impressive and soon to be iconic recording. If you're not hearing it from us, you'll hear from somebody else: Burial's Untrue is the best record of 2007.

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.

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!!

Antony And The Johnsons - The Crying Light LP

Antony And The Johnsons - The Crying Light LP (Secretly Canadian)

Our Review:

I Am A Bird Now is a really touch act to follow, but The Crying Light glows in its own unique beauty. Filled with lush arrangements and gorgeous orchestration, and of course Antony's one of a kind magical voice that is absolutely heavenly. Exploring similarly emotional and stunning stratospheres as folks like Rene Joly, Nina Simone, Bryan Ferry and Arthur Russell, while employing a remarkable group of musicians (Nico Muhly, Greg Cohen, Doug Wieselman, etc.), but ultimately it's Antony's incredible songwriting and delivery that elevate his work to that highest level of musical achievement. While not a dramatic departure from the haunting and emotionally charged sounds of I Am A Bird Now, this record still finds its own voice. Focusing on nature, and our relationship to nature in the smallest and most grandiose ways, Antony ponders our lives, births and deaths, as these songs make you stop in your tracks and soak up the wind and air and spirits that surround us. This is the kind of record that keeps revealing itself on repeated listens. Of course, highly recommended!

Raspberry Bulbs - Privacy LP

Raspberry Bulbs - Privacy LP (Blackest Ever Black)

Our Review:

Emaciated. Fractious. Toxic. Violent. Raspberry Bulbs is the blackened punk outfit that Marco del Rio conceived after dissolving the cult black metal duo Bone Awl in 2010 or thereabouts. The raw-nerve energy of Raspberry Bulbs is a continuation of Bone Awl's brand of D-beat primitivism, but with some downright catchy riffs and pop-hook chops replacing the black metal. Over three albums, Raspberry Bulbs has perfected that formula - one that could be cranked out on a single worn-torn guitar and knuckle-busting drum kit. Even as Raspberry Bulbs has swollen from a sole venture for del Rio to a formidable five-piece, the riffs have a crust-punk urgency that's completely in the moment and full of wild-eyed rage.

Raspberry Bulb's 2013 album Deformed Worship caught many people off guard, coming out on the boutique publishing house of paranoiac electronica, Blackest Ever Black. Despite the aesthetic differences, the malaise and the claustrophobia and the tension of Black Rain, Cut Hands and Raime find easy parallels in the jackbooted punk stomp of Raspberry Bulbs. It also makes a hell of a lot of sense that Dominic Fernow / Prurient released the first (and dare we say, slightly undercooked) first album from Raspberry Bulbs. So there's the connection for you. Privacy picks up right where Deformed Worship left off as an antisocial, bad-seed punk brother to Christian Death's Only Theatre Of Pain, starving the skeletal riffs into a acid batteries of ravenous angst and eschewing the goth miserablism in favor of a throat-ripped snarl. The guitars sound like they've been strung with razor wire and hot-wired into Crime's pawn shop amps. Raspberry Bulbs just sounds louder, snottier and meaner. Fucking awesome, we gotta say.