Thursday, 30 May 2013

Kayo Dot pre-order

Those nice people at Kayo Dot celebrate their 10th anniversary of highly individualistic noise creation this year. They also have a new album in the works that comes in Deluxe and Standard 3-LP versions, and for those of us stretched of wallet, a download only version. The preview below, an unmastered 13-minute snippet of tantalising sound, only serves to up the anticipation.



The band are taking pre-orders to pay for the cost of mastering and manufacturing, and one hopes that they reach their target.

Now for the bad news:

Thanks to some eye-watering price rises by the US Postal Service, p&p to anywhere outside the North American continent for the 3-LP package is a hefty $35. That's $3 more than the stand alone cost of the Standard package!

Of course, the only other way a potential purchaser could get their hands on the artwork and lyrics, and whatever else is on offer, would normally be in CD format, which is not being offered here because the band tell me they actually lost money printing CDs versions of the last album.

They tell me that if there is sufficient demand for a CD to make a run economically viable then it will be done, but it does not look promising to be honest. Frankly it is a bit of a "chicken and egg" situation as without the option to pre-order a CD how can they tell what the demand for a CD is anyway? The more voiciferous fans, me included, may have made our feelings known via email, etc, but I strongly suspect we are going to be a minority of those who would actually buy a CD.

That leaves the download option, but it just ain't the same for an old fart like me, I'm afraid. I want a tangible object that I don't have to feel guilty at having spent too much cash on every time I pick it up, thank you very much.

If you are still tempted, and I must admit my hand has hovered ober the "buy" button more than once, then find out more here:

http://www.kayodot.net/

http://kayodot.bigcartel.com/


The course of true love

Robert Fripp & Toyah Wilcox on All Star Mr & Mrs...bless!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Sanguine Hum - The Weight Of The World

Sanguine Hum are now on their second album, and the first to be recorded under the Esoteric Antenna wing. Their debut, the rather fine Diving Bell was initially released in November 2010 through the Troopers For Sound website before being picked up by the label.

In between the two studio albums was Live In America released last October. A busy period for this young Oxford band, it would seem, and one that has produced some quality music.

With Diving Bell, the band gave us a confident statement of polished art rock that fits in well with the modern zeitgeist. There is definitely something in the air, for bands like this, and Brighton's inFictions/Diagonal/Baron collective, and from over the water groups like The Tea Club and Dissonati all share a common feel, if not a sound. They all use post-rock and prog influences and all have come up with something fresh, and Sanguine Hum are certainly up there with the best of the current crop.

Less ebullient than the debut, The Weight Of World is a more considered and less bustling affair, as its title implies. As is often the case the drummer has changed from the first album, but other than that the line up has remained stable. Why is it always drummers?

This new considered approach has resulted in the closing and title track here stretching out to epic length, a first for the band, more of which later.



Brad Waissman, Joff Winks and Matt Baber have been together for over ten years, originally releasing three albums as Antique Seeking Nuns. If ever there was a wise decision in the name changing department this was probably it! The two frontline players Matt and Joff have been together even longer and all three show the benefit of those many years of playing together, producing some gorgeous melodic intertwinings, in evidence right from the start as From The Ground Up builds subtly in just the manner its title might suggest. Quite lovely instrumentation. Not to be left out by the guitarist and keyboard player, bass player Brad weaves some complex contrapuntal lines over the solid unassuming beats laid down by Andrew Booker.

A feature of this band is Joff's breathy countertenor, a quite unusual voice in a "rock" setting, and one that is used without ever becoming strident or an unnecessary focus as could so easily have been the case. 

This is a keyboard-led album, but they never descend into that cheesy 70s sound we are all too familiar with, and a trap that snares many bands labouring under the prog banner. An example is the spidery and insidious synth sound weaving its web through System For Solution; Matt has no desire to ape Tony Banks, for sure! This song is fast turning into my favourite on the record. The lyrics are all but done and dusted halfway in, and we have been taken on a musical carousel ride, concluding with a subtle guitar break, before being told that "The first step you find fascinating"; indeed it is.

The guitar does make occasional other forays but is largely there as texture, and Joff has enough going on with his voice anyway. A rare solo, short and sweet, bursts out of Joff's guitar on the title track, and its very novelty lends it extra weight.

We are treated to some of the recurring lyrical themes beloved of young bands; destiny, railing against society's programming, urban angst, but all written in a manner that rises well above the prosaic one often encounters. When concerns take a more ambiguous turn on the likes of Day Of Release and Phosphor they are much the better for it.

Ah, yes, the "epic" referred to earlier! The Weight Of The World (parts 1 to 3), all nigh on 15 minutes of it, is a charming construct and nowhere near as gloomy as it could have been in other hands. You can just imagine what a song called that and penned by Mr Wilson would sound like, can you not?

Its lyrical concerns are blurred; is it a personal "weight" or something alluding to the metaphysical? Is the "dirt" being swept "under the rug" a personal te-noire or something of larger environmental concern? The listener can make up their own mind on that one.

Musically it is as light on its feet as the rest of the album and keeps the theme on a long but never severed leash. Brief Dave Stewart-like keyboard flurries and what sounds like a vibraphone fleetingly point to the Canterbury influences that were far more to the fore in the band's previous incarnation.

The song wends its merry way and will not be hurried, but there is no room for filler, no needless noodling to fill the minutes for these guys. Languorous synth and strummed guitar accompany Joff's oblique musings, the contemplative sounds perfectly fitting the lyrics.

As epics go it is not one that transports the listener with jaw-dropping moments of stunning musical dexterity, but Sanguine Hum are not that kind of band, as you may well have surmised.

With a gig at London's The Borderline coming up on 7th June in support of Colin Moulding's Tin Spirits and this fine album under their belts, the weight of the world should be getting a little lighter for this fine band. See you at the gig!

Find out more HERE.

Tracklist:

1. From The Ground Up (5:34)
2. System For Solution (8:02)
3. In Code (4:35)
4. Cognoscenti (3:57)
5. Day Of Release (5:51)
6. Phosphor (3:04)
7. The Weight Of The World [parts 1 to 3] (14:51)

Total running time: 45:53

Line up:

Matt Baber - Rhodes, Hammond, synths, drum programming
Joff Winks - electric & acoustic guitar, vocals
Brad Waissman - bass
Andrew Booker - drums

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Bly De Blyant - ABC

Bly De Blyant are another one of those bands one stumbles across while looking for something else entirely. In fact I had completely forgotten I had sent the band an email asking if they wanted their work reviewed here, such is the pace of life at ABS Towers.

Anyway, when Norwegian drummer Øyvind Skarbø kindly replied to my request in the affirmative, I had to remind myself what I was letting myself in for.

A quick perusal of the album sampler on Soundcloud allayed any fears I may have had at making a possible rash choice, as ABC is a fine and wonderfully undefinable work.

As well as Øyvind on drums we have Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, who has played with John Zorn amongst others, and a rather fine Icelandic guitarist by the name of Hilmar Jensson, and together they produce a glorious racket that will have the more conventionally attuned music fan running for the hills. It must be getting crowded up there, is all I can say.




Lurching into the prismatic vision of the disturbed mind, after the short, calm, but quietly unsettling intro of Soft Zoo is Mordechai, whom, after he has settled one or two grudges sits down to mull it all over.

Oblique strategies abound as the multi-national trio take on improvised short spiky bursts of angular post-punk Wire infulenced shudderings, skewed ambience on what sounds like de-tuned glockenspiels, but most likely isn't, to guitar-as-jackhammer Beefheartian cacophony to post-industrial ambience, and all points inbetween, around, above and below. Restricting themselves to a genre is just not anything these boys are the slightest bit interested in, and for once, the old cliché of "We make the music we want to make, if anyone else likes it, all the better" actually applies. Those are my quotes, not the band's by the way. As Øyvind says himself "Free improvisation is a method, not a genre".

Recorded the old-fashioned way; three guys in the same room at the same time, no headphones, means the listener can almost feel the musical telepathy as it zings back and forth across the soundstage, which in this instance was the Greighallen Studio in Bergen, Øyvind’s home town.

Taking cues and treated pianos from John Cage, as well as nodding in the direction of Stockhausen, Faust and Can, the sound alternately creeps around quietly and then suddenly demands that you PAY ATTENTION! Tunes sometimes pop up, like the brief Batman theme on prescription drugz that is Shnily, followed by Wang Dang Doodle, an all too short tantalising jazz surprise in the midst of the madness. Daft, but it works!

Hutch Jesus I & II reveal something nasty scurrying about in the straw, while Controversy picks up the jazz theme from earlier and distorts it beyond the limits of flange, turning the funk inside out. By the time it gets to the end, the tune has resolved itself into a straight disco-strut. Gang Of Four was never quite like this.

The longest song here is Curtis and it is a thing of structure, slowly rising on the back of a simple guitar motif and odd keyboard embellishments. Everything is then put through a giant fuzzbox and it gets bigger and bigger. This Curtis fella means business. The repeated mantra makes it easy to imagine three heads nodding away on the beat in the studio. All too quickly it's over, and we're into album closer Snares.

Whereas a conventional album would have ended with the righteous Curtis, you just know that would be far too obvious for Bly De Blyant, and so it proves, as Snares shuffles its way across the floor, dragging its feet on a funereal beat, over which almost wistful guitar breathes a departing sigh. Too odd to be lovely, but beguiling, nonetheless.

At what may seem a mere 36:35 long, this is just right, as any longer and it may have become hard work. Definitely one for those of us with a need to scratch an obscuranist itch now and again. I know at least three people who would love this and countless numbers who wouldn't understand. It's their loss.

Find out more at the band's website

Buy here: Hubro Music

Tracklist:

1. Soft Zoo (0:34)
2. Mordechai (4:51)
3. 27 (2:17)
4. Spiral Jetty (0:15)
5. Transidiomatic Destiny (3:29)
6. Shnily (2:08)
7. Wang Dang Doodle (1:13)
8. Hutch Jesus I (2:44)
9. Controversy (4:26)
10. Rope (1:32)
11. Tarmac Zoo (0:47)
12. Hutch Jesus II (2:55)
13. Curtis (5:41)
14. Snares (3:44)

Total running time - 36:35

Line up:

...it's up^there, somewhere...

Bosnian Rainbows

If you have too much time on your hands, trying to run to keep up with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's prolific output could turn into a full time occupation.

With six studio albums released under the now defunct banner of The Mars Volta, not to mention a mere 34 albums counted on his own Bandcamp page (ok - some of these might be EPs or singles, you're welcome to find out!), chasing after Omar is the pursuit of an obsessive, and he's, (and it will be a "he", I've no doubt) welcome to it.

The easiest thing to do is stand still, there will be one along in a minute...and here it is, hoving into view, soon to be in our anticipating hands in the form of the first self-titled album by the cryptically named Bosnian Rainbows

There were too many brackets in that last paragraph but one, which neatly sums up Omar's convoluted musical passage. After a brief re-union of pre-TMV band At The Drive-In, Omar, along with the last drummer for TMV, one Deantoni Parks, got together with singer Teri Gender-Bender, and Nicci Kasper on synths and keyboards and formed Bosnian Rainbows.



The result is akin to handshake across generations, with a fusion of punky attitude à la Siouxsie crossed with Patti Smith from Ms Gender-Bender, backed by some energetic new wave spikyness from the band, all present and correct in single Torn Maps, fused with Omar's unique acid-jazz-prog-punk fusion, which comes to the fore on the only other track we are privy to before the 25th June release date, Turtle Neck.

I'm intrigued, as this is a definite departure from The Mars Volta's propensity for pointless noodling, especially in the middle period of their tortured journey.

Find out more here.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited - Symphony Hall, Birmingham 16th May 2013

I do not indulge in watching cover bands as a rule, as I find them pointless and they act to restrict access to audiences by current bands making new music by diverting the funds of us hard-pressed gig goers in these economically bleak times. In fact, the last cover band I saw was The Australian Pink Floyd, way back in 1993.

So, what, you may rightly ask am I doing here, then? Well, firstly Mr Hackett had a major part in crafting the best songs of that most quintessentially English of all the original prog bands, Genesis; so if anyone has a right to play that music again, it's him. The fact that Rutherford and Banks choose not to play the old songs, and Collins has been struck down by illness and so could not indulge in pastures old, even if he wanted to, is neither here nor there. And yes, it may well be correct that Gabriel has resisted the urge purely for artistic reasons, and therefore retains his integrity, but who did he go running to when WOMAD almost bankrupted him in the 80s, eh? Needs must, and all that.

The reason for this long rambling intro (it's not over yet!) is the review I read in The Guardian  that not so much made me see red, as a slight wan shade of pink. After all it's not worth getting too hot under the collar about!

Reading Ian Gittins' review I get the impression he wasn't born when these classics, for that's what they are, first saw the light of day and so his sense of context is somewhat skewed. He quotes Mike Rutherford as saying "I find it strange, going back and playing these songs … I'd rather do something new" which made me laugh, considering Rutherford took part in that huge Genesis reunion tour in 2007, or was that a mirage? And pray tell me, what "new" music has come from Rutherford that even begins to compare with what Steve Hackett has produced recently? Also of course, Rutherford, Banks and Collins all made vastly more dosh from Genesis than Hackett as they quite eagerly jettisoned any artistic integrity for the pop $ in the 80s, by which time Hackett had already left. Hackett, like anyone else of his age has to provide for his retirement and you cannot blame him for it.

Gittins also berates Hackett for spending "the latter part of his career obsessively rerecording and tweaking (the Genesis) repertoire". OK if two Genesis Revisited albums separated by 16 years, in which time he released 10 albums of new work is "obsessively rerecording" then fair enough! Gittins claims there are three rehash albums, but I've no idea what the third one was. However, in Gittins' defence I do agree that studio rehashes are ultimately pointless as I wrote for DPRP last year.

Mr Gittins described the London gig from a few days before last night's shenanigans as being "a dispiritingly redundant evening", so I thought I just had to do a review in order to see how little or even how much of that statement is true.

And now for the gig...

Squarely aimed at the now comfortably off generation who witnessed Gabriel's Genesis first hand, one has to remember that this is entertainment, not art. Most of the audience look like they are about to or have recently retired on fat pensions, and the prices at the merch stall reflect that this is the first group of retirees who will be better off than their sons and daughters since the 19th century. £20 for a tee-shirt, £35 for a hoodie, even the programme cost £12. As if to prove my point there was more than one "Cruise To The Edge" tee-shirt wearer on show, that ultimate exercise in parting the musically conservative from their wallets.

Steve Hackett or his label miss no tricks in extracting the cash either, as there has recently been a truncated single CD version of the Genesis Revisited II double CD issued that contains tracks not on the original album. This is not the first time that this cynical ploy has been used on his punters either, although his label are by far from the first or only label to use this ruse.

"Yes, alright stop moaning and tell us about the music" you ask...

Despite the ticket claiming "no support", the show started at 7:15 with a half-hour set from Anne-Marie Helder, who was all a bit too "wow" and "amazing" for my liking.

The rather downbeat interval music over the PA was Midlake's dreary one-paced The Courage Of Others, a rather odd choice if you ask me!

The mighty Watcher Of The Skies opened proceedings, just as it used to for Genesis 316 years ago, but I'm afraid the modern synthetic organ sound supplied by long-time Steve Hackett Band ivory tinkler Roger King just does not have the same primitive visceral impact of Tony Banks' thunderous Hammond of days long gone by. Nad Sylvan's daft theatrics aside, a decent opening nonetheless, and it got a rowdy reception from the audience.

Nik Kershaw comes in for an acerbic put-down in Gittins' review, a pen-lashing that was embarrassingly wide of the mark when one considers that Kershaw was the only respite from the Gabriel clones on Genesis Revisited II and for that reason provided the album highlight in my opinion. Unfortunately Nik wasn't with the band for this gig; instead we had the Gabriel/Collins affectations of Nad Sylvan, rock star threads and all. In an act of probably manufactured synchronicity with Hackett's erstwhile prog behemoths, the second vocalist was inevitably the drummer Gary O'Toole, who in my opinion was the better singer of the two as he did not try to impersonate, he simply sang in his own voice.

For my money there are two ways to approach covering another vocalist's material, especially one as idiosyncratic as Peter Gabriel; you can do it straight and in your own voice with no affectations, or you can go the whole hog, costumes and all, like the guy in The Watch. Sylvan fell between those two stools, and when he did actually let go a bit and sang in what was obviously his own voice he was much better for it than when attempting an out-and-out impersonation, as on Watcher Of The Skies. And I have to mention that his thankfully mostly low key attempts at Gabriel-like theatrics, carried out without the slightest hint of irony, made me laugh more than once!


Gary O'Toole, another long serving member of Steve's band took the lead for Broadway Melody 1974 and a damn fine job he did too, all the while keeping down the less than obvious time signature. His only nod in the direction of Phil Collins was his choice of cheeky titfer. That's cockney rhyming slang for hat, for all of you not familiar with the vernacular!

As Nik Kershaw was absent it fell to Nad to sing The Lamia, and by now he was finding his own voice and growing in confidence although I did notice an occasional slight wavering from the note, but that might be a curse of having perfect pitch, as it didn't seem to bother anyone else in our vicinity. The song segues into Silent Sorrow..., which included a great soprano sax and guitar trade off between Rob Townsend (another Steve Hackett Band stalwart), and Steve.

Things were building nicely and by now I had largely overcome my earlier reservations. The summit of the gig was a storming charge through Musical Box that sent shivers up my spine. This song reminded one of a time when Genesis rocked. In my 'umble opinion they never sounded as primal as on the first live album, and this song is firmly rooted in that glorious era. Quite rightly Musical Box got a standing ovation from the crowd.

The gig never quite reached those heights again, and even an extended funk workout in the middle of I Know What I Like, including much syncopated larking about from the band never resonated with the emotions quite like the Nursery Cryme favourite.


Entangled featured a really on the button four-part vocal harmony and I maintain my assertion from the DPRP GRII review that even the original of Eleventh Earl Of Mar cannot hold a candle to the earlier epics, so it passed me by I'm afraid. Like I Know What I Like, Supper's Ready provided the chance for a mass singalong, but came over a tad perfunctory. I did enjoy beating out the 9/8 rhythm of Apocalypse... on the bald pate of the punter seated in front of me though...I jest, for it was actually on the arm of chair I was sat in. :) 

The show ended with Steve's guitar-shred rearrangement of Los Endos, a rare moment of true improvisation on a well-worn theme.

While this show was all about entertainment and not art, and I much prefer the latter in my aural pursuits, I am brought back to Ian Gittins' summation that he experienced "a dispiritingly redundant evening" in London. That is a comment that goes far beyond any criticisms I have, as there were moments of real joy last night, but after Steve and his band had played for nearly two and a half hours, meaning we'd been in the venue for an hour longer than that, I was flagging a bit. The "no support" line of the ticket should have been adhered to and the main attraction should have come on earlier and had an interval.

One final thing; it wasn't quite loud enough, perhaps in deference to the delicate shell-likes of all the retired teachers and accountants in the audience, who knows? I can recall seeing Genesis in the 70s and being pinned to the floor by Watcher's organ swell!

Unless the Insolvency Service comes knocking at Peter Gabriel's door in the near future, there will never be a proper Genesis reunion gig again, so this almost-but-not-quite tribute band will have to do. While I write this I'm playing The Great Lost Live Album to remind myself how good the originals actually were.

Oh, and Birmingham is nowhere near as grim as I remember it, and is actually a really nice place. There, I can stop moaning if I put my mind to it!

Setlist:

Watcher of the Skies
The Chamber of 32 Doors
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
Fly on a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
The Lamia
Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats
The Musical Box
Blood on the Rooftops
Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers...
...In That Quiet Earth
Afterglow
I Know What I Like
Dance on a Volcano
Entangled
Eleventh Earl of Mar
Supper's Ready

Encore:
Firth of Fifth
Los Endos

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Jumble Hole Clough - Two Days In April

Two Days In April (in my imagination it is called Flip-Flop, Despot & Omnibus) is the third album from Hebden Bridge obscure minimalist improv ambient project Jumble Hole Clough, named after a local beauty spot near the Yorkshire town. Colin Robinson is the man behind the madness, and he is slightly better known to the world at large as one half of alt-pop duo Churn Milk Joan, fawned over in these very pages not so long ago.

The sandal of A solitary sandal, seen floating on the Rochdale Canal near Mytholmroyd gives rise to all manner of post-industrial ambience and spookiness, sprawled over a quarter of an hour's worth of dredging the dark nooks and crannies of Colin's imagination.

Synthetic echoed bleeps over looped feedback bubble and wail like Dik Mik arising from Dr Frankenstein's operating slab. A simple and strung out early Gilmour-like slide guitar is looped and struggles but ultimately fails to escape the sludge at bottom of the canal but still sounds heavenly. Some wah and fuzz enter the sonic painting, and this canal must be a dangerous place. And yes, there is an actual place called Mytholmroyd, a name Tolkien would have been proud of!




Onward through to the next long-undisturbed portal in Colin's mind, and we enter a world where a justified and acerbic noise should be made in "honour" of the despot. But nay, for A eulogy for M H Thatcher on the occasion of her funeral is not like that at all. Ephemeral looped bells and synthesiser create a ghost story out of thin air, the sonic ether remaining strangely calm, cut short to low-end rumblings. A questioning and keening guitar dances the high tension line that by now is thrumming with expectancy. I am reminded of Bill Nelson's forays into the world of guitar ambience.

Everything is now looped and guitar and synth combine in a complex web of mantra like sound, all quite delicate, and given the subject matter of the title of this piece, not at all what I was expecting, but eerie nonetheless. A looped picked guitar refrain raises the tempo considerably for a moment before falling back to the main theme, if it can be called that. Suddenly at around 15 minutes in things start to get more agitated with some shoegazey flanged chords swooping down on the cortege, but again things fall back on the minimalist mantra, the looped synth sounding like a cuckoo with OCD. Then; silence, before a discordant cacophony heralds the arrival of the despot in Hell...or summat.

You can hear it all for yourself on the Bandcamp page, anyway, but that's my take on it.

A Royal Tiger Worldmaster was a slow but largely reliable single decker bus built not far from Hebden Bridge in Farington by Leyland Motors, and is the sort of thing you'll see in every 50s/60s period drama set in the North of England. I'll let you discover Colin's audio translation for yourself without ruining it with my garbled syntax...'appen.

Jumble Hole Clough is essentially ambient music for folk who fall asleep at the very idea, as it will keep prodding you should you be in danger of nodding off. Different from the average, for sure, and not at all bad.

Tracklist:

1. A solitary sandal, seen floating on the Rochdale Canal near Mytholmroyd (15:48)
2. A eulogy for M H Thatcher on the occasion of her funeral (21:15)
3. Royal Tiger Worldmaster (15:43)

Line up:

Colin Robinson - "using one guitar (with live looping), one synthesiser, one silent Buddha Machine and a little bit of fretless bass"

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Taylor's Universe - Worn Out

Robin Taylor is a "composer, multi-instrumentalist, sound manipulator, arranger, producer and record label owner, born 1956 in Copenhagen, Denmark", as it says on his website.

He has been releasing music since 1991, and this is the 12th album bearing the name of his band, Taylor's Universe. In that time he has also released many albums under his own name and as Taylor's Free Universe, an improv extension of the group we are scrutinising here.

In fact it was chancing upon a "review" of one of the Taylor's Free Universe albums over on DPRP that made me search out this guy. The review was short, but not sweet at all; here it is, verbatim:

"Noise, not music, by Pierre Tassone (processed violin, percussion); Kim Menzer (clarinet, trombone, “strange flute”); Robin Taylor (guitars, loops, “manipulations”); Peter Friis Nielsen (bass guitar); and Lars Juul (drums, “objects”)

Conclusion 1 out of 10

That's what happens when you let something strange loose on a conventionally minded soul, the poor dear! Unfortunately I could not find a copy of Family Shot, the 2004 album of "noise, not music" referred to above, but I have tracked down the latest release by the more structured Taylor's Universe, and a treat it is, too.

Taylor's Universe play a mix of grandiose symphonic rock rooted in jazz fusion, but that doesn't really do their warm and involving soundscape justice. Prog Archives filing them under "RIO/Avant prog" is even further off the mark, as the samples below will prove:



The driving brass section in Munich threatens to boogie, but in an off-kilter fashion, and the arrangement here as on all the other songs shows that Robin Taylor has a fine compositional ear. Lamentations on medieval scales opens Imaginary Church which prays at an altar of eastern mystery, the drummer nailing the insistent beat throughout.

Relying on tight ensemble playing, there is no extended noodling on this record and the album is all the better for it. A dramatic tension pulls at the listener from the start of Cruelty In Words, a rising mantra changing tack with short but fiery guitar breaks in the turnaround, presumably from Jon Hemmersam, sending the song back down the stairs it has just ascended; another clever and engaging arrangement. The way the guitar and sax fire off one another towards the end of this song is a joy to behold.

Denmark is one of the few European countries apart from the UK to commit significant troop numbers to that misguided and ultimately pointless war in Afghanistan, and Jens In Afghanistan with its military drum and chatter intro is Robin's musical contribution to the debate. Whether this is a tribute or a criticism of his Government's actions in the name of its people is not immediately obvious to this outsider, as the feelings are impressionistic, including the chatter in the first part of the piece, followed by TV audience applause. Definitely the strangest number on the record, and the closest to "avant" with its free-jazz sax squalling over a funky backbeat.

Closing the album is another military themed title, Sergeant Pepperoni. Jon's guitar breaks again fire off Karsten Vogel's emotionally wrought sax blowing, the star of this particular song. An air of restrained power and some lovely lyrical playing from the two soloists, with the band behind holding it together, it breaks down to some free-form space jazz in the middle before building to a rushing climax on the back of an altered version of the opening theme.

A thoroughly confident album that refuses to be neatly pigeonholed, Worn Out is anything but, and is a must for any lover of true progressive music, with a jazz leaning. A fine companion to one of the albums of the year, Soft Machine Legacy's brilliant Burden Of Proof. Yes, it's that good!


Tracklist:

1. Floating Rats (8:00)
2. Munich (10:24)
3. Imaginary Church (4:24)
4. Cruelty In Words (5:24)
5. Jens In Afghanistan (6:23)
6. Sergeant Pepperoni (8:38)

Total running time - 43:32

Line up:

Robin Taylor - guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion & allsorts
Jakob Mygind - soprano & tenor sax
Karsten Vogel - soprano & alto sax
Jon Hemmersam - guitar solos
Klaus Thrane - drums
Louise Nipper - voices on Munich

Robin Taylor's website 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Bjorn J:son Lindh - Från Storstad Till Grodspad

A buried obcscurity from Sweden, this is the sort of thing that would have remained well hidden were it not for ye olde interwebby. Recorded in 1971 in Stockholm, apparently using a lot of the musicians who were also associated with Bo Hansson, this oddity mixes classical, funk, pop, avant garde and funky jazz fusion on the side long track Music From A Big City, which seems to be a depiction of the never ending battle between nature and urbanisation. I make this guess as the album title roughly translates as "From Big City To Frog Broth", which may or may not be a subtext from a battle between nature and man, something confirmed once I checked out the liner notes (see below).

Side Two is a collection of avant-pop vignettes that could well be snippets of incidental music for film and TV, and intriguing though it is, Music From A Big City is the only reason to get hold of this, if you can. If you can't here it is in all its glory on YouTube:





For further info, here's an English translation of the original LP liner notes:

"From Big City to Frog Sauce"

Liner notes by Lars Magnus Janson

To represent Swedish Radio in the international radio broadcast of the 1971 Prix Jean-Antoine Triumph Variete, a radio man, an actor and a musician were invited to depict reality through music.

The result was a large city. Based on authentic audio recordings of daily urban sounds in Stockholm, improvising musicians presented a vision of the modern metropolis. Cars, sirens, pile drivers, church bells mix into an inferno of music. From the treacherous calm of a city morning, these sounds eventually rise up to smother those sounds nature calls her own. This is a highly personal image of an environment to which millions of people are forced to adapt daily.

This personal image is signed Björn J:son Lindh.

Björn J:son Lindh, 27, has one of the most significant profiles in the modern Swedish music scene. His compositions and arrangements have contributed (among other achievements) to the success of Cornelis Vreeswijk's double LP Poems, ballads and a little blues. Lindh can also take a great deal of credit for the attention given to Bernt Staf's debut. Together with Hawkey Franzen, Lindh wrote and produced the LP View from Djupvik, and he has been one of the central figures in the celebrated group Jason's Fleece.

In the late Summer of 1971, Lindh (a flute soloist) released his debut solo album. Rarely has a pop-jazz record received as much acclaim as Ramadam.

Besides a large number of record productions, Lindh has also written music for TV and stage. He studied flute formally at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, and is also trained as a pianist.

In addition to "Music from a Big City", which received Second Prize in the 1971 Triumph Variete in Monte Carlo (and which occupies one side of this LP), this album shows Björn J:son Lindh further testing his composition and performance skills. "From Big City to Frog Sauce" is proof of how strongly a seriously trained musician and composer with a strong dramatic personality can handle modern pop music, whilst creating work that shows music a way forward in the 1970's.


SIDE ONE

Music from a Big City (21'36)

Björn J:son Lindh: conductor, piano, organ, Moog and flute.

Jan Bandel, Ola Brunkert & Rune Carlsson: drums.

Palle Danielsson & Bengt Linnarsson: bass.

Kenny Håkansson, Anders Nordh & Jan Schaffer: guitar.

Mats Hagström: cello.

Members of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stig Westerberg.

Recorded in Studio 7, Radio House, Stockholm, March 22nd - April 1st 1971, and in the Musical Academy auditorium May 4th, 1971.

Music Technicians: Berndt Berndtson, Ola Kejving & Syive Sjöberg.

Production Team: Berndt Berndtson, Thomas Hellberg, Anders Henriksson, Lars Magnus Janson & Björn J: son Lindh.


SIDE TWO

Seven pop pieces

1. Tom Bohle 1971 (1'21)

2. Grytnäs swell (1'38)

3. Biezlov (1'46)

4. The dancing Wollmar (6'41)

5. In grodspadet (Lindh-Hawkey Franzen) (3'30)

6. Close the cover - she's freezing (3'46)

7. Tom Bohle 1972 (1'14)

Björn J:son Lindh: conductor, piano, organ.

Jan Bandel & Janne Carisson: drums.

Lucas Lindholm: electric bass.

Kenny Håkansson & Rune Gustafsson: electric guitar.

Hawkey Franzen: guitar, accordion.

Nisse Sandström: tenor saxophone.

Jörgen Johansson and Torqny Nilsson: trombone.

Bertil Lövgren & Beinth Gustavsson: trumpet.

Lars-Erik Rönn: oboe.

Bengt Olsson & Bengt Sundberg: horn.

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra String Section.

Karin Stig Mark, Göran Lagerberg, Anders Nordh & Hawkey Franzen: vocals.

Recorded in Studio 7, Radio House, Stockholm on 11th - 23rd June 1971.

Music Technician: Berndt Berndtson.

Production Team: Anders Henriksson & Björn J:son Lindh.

The Swedish Composers Performing Rights Society (STIM) contributed financially to the production of this disc.

Cover Design: Lasse Åberg.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Blow Up Hollywood Need You!

Yes, that's you...and you...and your mate, and his wife and her mates, ad infinitum.

Blow Up Hollywood are one those bands who deserve to be big, for in singer Steve Messina they have a songwriter of much merit, as the video below proves.



As is the way with low profile modern bands BUH have launched a Pledge Music campaign, but with a difference. This is not to fund their album, as it's already in the can; no, this is to fund the marketing and advertising, something a band without a label or daddy's chequebook is always going to find economically difficult if not impossible. Steve explains all in the link and video below:

Pledge Music campaign

So if that tune above hits the right spot, do yourself a favour and pledge as little as $10 to get your hands, or more likely your ears on the this new waxing by this fab band.

If you're cash rich, then for a mere $10000, Steve will fly over to your country, drive to your house and serenade you personally for a whole week while you go about your daily chores. Just imagine strolling down the vegetable aisle at the supermarket while Steve croons in your wake; or taking that awkward meeting with a client at work, all tension dissipated as Steve puts things into a Zen perspective; or doing the hoovering as Steve SHOUTS Throw Me A Line over the roar of the Dyson.

I may have made that last bit up, but from what Steve says in video, it's not too far from the truth!

Go on, you know it makes sense. This campaign lasts for two months from now, so don't dawdle!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Pokerface - Silver Heart - Part I

Pokerface, aka Stefan Heidevik has made a big stride with Silver Heart - Part I, his second album. Progressing is the word, and here it applies, Stefan and friends concocting an avant-progressive mix for the modern world.

The clattering beats of the first album Transeo are still present, but reined in a bit, which opens up the sound, allowing the listener to concentrate more on the weird instrumentation on offer.

Retaining the services of guitarists Mattis Karlsson and Bryan Baker and reed and wind instrument player Per Ericsson from Transeo, the other guest musicians are new players, the cello and violin are gone, to be replaced by an accordion. Not that this changes things significantly, as the dominant sound source is always Stefan's collection of unfathomable electronica.



Probably the most well-known guest is drummer Morgan Ågren (Mats/Morgan Band, Devin Townsend) who contributes some dazzlingly furious contrapuntal drumming to Thank You Wendy, which sails off on an off-kilter guitar line from Bryan Baker before becoming a kind of techno-jazz workout in some very odd time signature indeed...ah, here comes that woozy guitar again, careening about like a butterfly trapped in an upturned jar. This is highly inventive music making of a very high calibre indeed.

Bang in the middle of this album is Heartland (For Dad), standing out because of its near-conventional post-prog structure, given just the right amount of edge by Oscar Johansson's clever drumming. The song itself is a heartfelt paean to loss and although Stefan's voice is not his strongest asset, it manages to convey the obviously raw emotion by remaining natural and just about pulling up short of cracking up. Mattis Karlsson provides the suitably dark shards of post-rock guitar that drives the song along in tandem with Oscar's drumming.

The song eventually ends in waves of echoed and reverbed guitar, reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, and although atypical of the rest of the album, it shows that Stefan can draw the conventional shape if he needs to. Check it, and the rest of the album out on the Bandcamp link above.

Either side of Heartland (For Dad) are Muttersprache (Mother Tongue) and its reprise, a very odd tale where Stefan is either harmonising with a treated version of his own voice, or an uncredited female voice is used. Whatever, the effect is quite unsettling.

The bonus live tracks are highly intriguing and it would be a treat to see how this is played out live. More atonal than the studio cuts, with the sax higher up the mix, it sounds like music you could dance to if you were a three-legged giraffe. I mean that in a good way!

Finishing the album is the haunting Beneath The Tree, which is just Stefan's fragile voice accompanied by a lone accordion, and is yet another step sideways, and proof of the high intelligence at work in this music making.

This is an album for those with a sense of aural adventure, and if you liked The Man Who Sold Himself by Gavin Harrison & Ø5ric, or X-TG's Desertshore/The Final Report then you should give this a go. And, Stefan is offering it for free, so what have you got to lose?

Tracklist:
01 Der Schloß Adler 2:03
02 Thank you Wendy 5:54
03 Sticks and Stones 4:34
04 Autumn-Winter-Fall 3:54
05 Muttersprache 3:32
06 Heartland (To Dad) 9:52
07 Muttersprache Reprise 3:55
08 Sticks and Stones - Live (bonus) 4:01
09 Beginnings and Endings - Live (bonus) 6:44
10 Krtek ve Snu - Live (bonus) 4:28
11 Beneath the Tree - Live (bonus) 4:28

Line up:
- Stefan Heidevik / vox, synths, keys, programming
- Per Ericsson / reeds, wind-instruments (track 1, 8-10)
- Tobias Axelsson / bass (track 1, 6, 8-10)
- Mattis Karlsson / guitar (track 6)
- Bryan Baker / guitar (track 2, 4)
- Morgan Ågren / drums (track 2)
- Oscar Johansson / drums (track 6)
- Petter Rapp / accordion (track 1, 8-11)

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