Archives for category: Albums

What becomes of a man’s legacy? Stories such as the tale of William Walker shoring up the foundation walls of Winchester Cathedral deserve immortality. From the written records of his life, a Wikipedia entry no less, he sounds like a remarkable man. His story is one of those intriguing tales from yesteryear that doesn’t quite fit into the modern world. Walker worked for 5 years to save the sinking Cathedral, submerged in pitch-black isolation, shifting bags of concrete in a cumbersome 200-pound diving suit. His legend has now been reinforced by the music of Petrels, a solo project from Bleeding Heart Narrative’s Oliver Barrett. Walker is noted as modest man; I’d imagine it would come as quite a shock to him to discover that his legacy has been sustained by a conceptual album of dark drone and ethereal electronic music.
The ebb and flow of the album is excellent, storytelling as pure sensation. Such an epic undertaking must have been quite disorienting from day one, staring down into that silt-flooded black hole in the Earth. But amongst the hazy strings and growling drones there is always a clear focus, and this is the album’s greatest success. Landscape is a fairly common theme with this sort of music, however, the music not only conveys the mass and depth of the stone, earth and water that constantly surrounded him, it captures something of the human element; the futility of Walker’s task and isolated bloodymindedness that he must have had. This is something the history books could never have hoped to recreate. A sort of historical document with a scratch and sniff emotional resonance.

En Form For Blå totally defied my initial expectations. There isn’t the density or overt drama you would expect from a ‘supergroup’ based around Sunn 0)))’s Stephen O’Malley and Daniel O’Sullivan of Ulver, instead you get a huge amount of space and restraint in the music. Steve Noble and Kristoffer Rygg complete the quartet, and it is often Noble’s intuitive drumming that binds the music, as you’d expect from someone so well-versed in improvised performance. For a live recording the sound quality has an exceptional clarity and this adds to the feeling of exposure that permeates the music. The tension between the musicians creates a brooding, pernicious edge. Despite defying the expectations of its component parts, it has that natural, instinctive quality that you can only get with musicians of this calibre.

More wonderfully nebulous psychedelic-folk music from Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte. Ethereal drones and more traditional folk segments weave in and out of each other like an abstract medieval tapestry. They are a pair who certainly aren’t in a hurry, each track drifting for around fifteen minutes of gently finger picked guitar melody and washes of electronic fuzz and raga-drone. Gularte’s vocals are used painfully sparingly, only appearing tangibly for the last minute or so of This Ice Fortress and Still Desert, giving some welcome human gravity to the end of each. Whilst there is more focus to the record than last years Centuri Agent, the music remains an entirely elemental force.

Writing lists about music is a strange phenomenon. Comparing the complexities of BJ Nilsen to the swaggering exuberance of Big Boi is, frankly, a ludicrous endeavour. However, I do enjoy reading them. I’ve also found I enjoy writing them, or at least I’ve enjoyed listening back to all the great albums of the year. The cataloguing/journal-side of things is oddly satisfying too. In writing this, I realise I’ve probably listened to way too much music this year and could do with taking a bit more time with a choice few. It is all getting a bit obsessive. Anyway, the order can really be taken with a pinch of salt, they are all fantastic. Commence the hyperbole!

LPs :

01 Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh [Universal]
A lot of the music that appears on these pages is intrinsically experimental, often a little rough round the edges, on a journey to some place or another, not necessarily ‘a finished thing’. But this isn’t. On this record Badu sounds like she’s found her place in the grand scheme of things. This is as close to a perfect record as you could ever really need.
Spotify

02 Keith Fullerton Whitman – Disingenuity / Disingenuousness [Pan]
Like hearing someone spontaneously exhale a lifetimes worth of memory, inspiration and emotion condensed into thirty thrilling minutes. Mister Whitman is a bleedin’ genius, everything he’s released this year has been unbelievably good.

03 B.J. Nilsen – The Invisible City [Touch]
Epic, intimate, totally beguiling. An astonishing achievement, creating sound that you feel you could wander around to examine its intricacies, a virtual metropolis of noise.

04 Forest Swords – Dagger Paths [Olde English Spelling Bee/No Pain In Pop]
Certainly newcomer of the year, made my memory nodes fizz whilst still exhibiting a truly original sound. Won’t forget the morning when I first heard ‘Miarches’ for a while. Very exciting music.

05 Sun Araw – On Patrol [Not Not Fun]
Intolerably intoxicating in the wrong moments, but when the mind is ready to tune in, it is a totally absorbing, complex delight. For a year that has been a bit overwhelmed by the slow-jam aesthetic, this record stands out a mile in terms of originality and pure groove.
Spotify

06 Pan Sonic – Gravitoni [Blast First Petite]
Exhilarating intensity. Maybe not one to listen to often, but one you pay attention to when you are. With Pan Finale, probably the perfect ending for Mika Vainio & Ilpo Väisänen’s final release.
Spotify

07 Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty [Def Jam]
Takes me back to the days when hip hop and skateboarding and hanging out on the top of carparks was pretty much everything. Totally ace.
Spotify

08 Evan Caminiti – West Winds [Three Lobed Recordings]
This year’s Barn Owl (of whom Caminiti is half) LP was a wee bit disappointing (I had very high expectations). Caminiti’s solo work though is a brilliantly focussed affair; full of space, movement and texture. Anyone that says drone music isn’t emotionally stirring is incorrect.

09 Eleh – Location Momentum [Touch]
A suffocatingly dense monolith of obsessively pure noise. Totally beautiful, it’s very hard to explain why. If you are the sort of person who stops when passing a building site, or when some unexplained mechanical malfunction is occurring somewhere in the distance, to focus on a strange, articulated buzzing noise, you’ll probably understand. Play it loud and let it soak through you.

10 Yellow Swans – Going Places [Type]
One of drone’s finest finally call it a day. And, with it, they drag you painfully through a scorched landscape of such density and texture it leaves you a lacerated mess, a gloopy glob kneeling at the foot of music of great magnitude. It deserves better alliteration than this.

(much more below the line)
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This is an immensely purposeful piece of guitar drone. West Winds never seems to drift aimlessly as drone can often stand accused, this represents the genre at its best; thought-provoking, stirring, emotional. It constantly seems focussed on some inevitable, dramatic conclusion which never fully materialises, leaving the impression that the album is a merely a vignette of some greater movement, a hint of a colossal, omnipresent force, the earth’s atmosphere itself becoming a weighty, irrepressible presence. There is an intense focus, but far from being physical jab, it is a celebral, beyond-conscious stare into the sky and beyond; into the huge empty void that engulfs us constantly.

Primarily a guitarist with avant-droner’s Barn Owl, Caminiti utilises a more complex palette of sound on West Winds; acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano and harmonium all feature heavily. From the first startling guitar strums on Night Of The Archeon you know this is going to be a special listen. From there on, thick, acrid electric guitar static engulfs proceedings. Westward Sun is built around a wonderfully mournful piano refrain. On Dust Caminiti’s guitar playing again becomes momentarily tangible, echoing amongst hovering drones it is an ethereal varient on John Fahey’s intense finger-picking. Final track Black Desert Blooming starts with intent, reminiscent in mood and texture of Yellow Swans’ amazing Going Places, but by the end has turned into the album’s quietest, most pensive moment; leaving you with a feeling of total solitude as humanity is revealed to be a whimpering presence against the vastness of the cosmos. Irrelevance is a strangely comforting feeling.

Witch House eh? Seems to have caused some bemusement to those who prefer a more genial sub-genre. The phrase appears to have been coined by Salem to describe their garbled, hyper pop. As a self-description of Salem’s sound, it gains a witchy credence, and ‘oOoOO’, that’s the sound a ghost makes right? More spooky credentials. Whilst ‘house’ is a bit of a crap reference, it does share its euphoric ambitions, and if it means the hypnogogic moniker getting a well-earned rest, then I’m okay with that.

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It took me a while to warm fully to the Olde English Spelling Bee label. Earlier releases had plenty of interesting goings on to zone in and out of, but often sounded a bit similiar and too reliant on the hypnogogic. Forest Swords aside, and possibly James Ferraro’s Last American Hero, I’ve not really engaged with the LP releases so far. But then came the double release of Pigeons Si Faustine (also highly recommended) and Julian Lynch’s Mare. ‘Coming of age’ is probably disrespectful to the labels experimental origins, but these albums do seem to represent a maturing for the label; at least from the perspective that adulthood (generally) means a less noisy, more structured approach to things.

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Lack of sleep, monotonous work, burned-out on caffeine. Sometimes only a very specific sound is appropriate. Deafening silence and dark, nebulous squall. And very few words.

Reissue by Type.

It has only been a few months since the release of Oversteps, but as is often the case Autechre have released some additional material to accompany it. It has been released as a double-EP, one 12″ of four tracks and one of six.

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I haven’t really enjoyed any previous Ariel Pink albums. Admittedly, I got too annoyed by the lo-fi production and whiney vocals to give them much patience, so I guess liking this album amounts to me being a fickle trend-riding motherfucker (so I’ve read elsewhere).

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