I have a pretty irrational hatred of saxophones. I worked in a jazz cellar for far too long and the thought of hearing yet another version of My Favourite Things makes me sad to the core. However, Mats Gustafsson has gone and destroyed that blanket of comforting sax smugness with an inspirational performance of incredible intensity at the first night of the Le Weekend festival in Stirling.

RM Hubbert eased us into proceedings with a some impressive, intricate six-string guitar playing in the bar before being ushered into the hall for Critical Mass, a duo of Mats Gustafsson with Agusti Fernandez on keys. Gustafsson played the saxophone like no one I’ve ever seen before, with incredible energy and expressivity. The first ten minutes of intense effort produced barely any actual noise whatsoever, sweat pouring off him, his lungs filling with air but allowing only short controlled jabs of sound to escape between Agusti Fernandez’s piano string plucking; immense tension building within the room. When he did let loose I could scarcely comprehend how the noises were being created from the instrument, some more familiar with amp feedback as his body contorted desperately controlling each escaping sound. The interplay between the two leapt from tension that bordered on painful, with Fernandez barely touching his keys as he played, to shattering moments of euphoric release; waves of tone lasted forever with almighty shows of circular breathing, Fernandez crashing his elbows down on his keys to match the powerful saxophone intonation. The spectacle proved divisive between my companions, varying from bemusement to downright anger, but it was one of the most exhilarating pieces of live music I’d ever witnessed and I left the theatre totally buzzing, weakened by the all-consuming concentration.

A weakened state is far from ideal going into a Ben Frost set. Frost’s music defies easy categorisation, he gives the impression of living a hermits life in cave somewhere in a frozen wilderness, performing his crazed sonic experiments unconcerned with the trends of the music community. Following an instrumental set of such virtuosity is a difficult task, certainly for a predominantly laptop-based artist. But, without really giving you a chance to assess anything he began an assault on your ears, pulses of rich sound ripping through the audience at the absolute threshold of aural meltdown. Using electric guitar, piano and synthesizer he built evocative, dramatic soundscapes; which he consequently annihilated with heavy sonic shelling, each massive sound ricocheting through your body as the room and air vibrated with noise. It was a visceral and exciting performance, and although I didn’t find it as an immersive set as its predecessor, this fact was heavily debated between the rest my group (I was outnumber four to one).

The final act saw Mats Gustafsson return to the stage with the Sten Standell Hammond Organ Trio, which confusingly featured four musicians and barely any Hammond. There was plenty of deft playing, but if I’m honest, by this point I was a beaten man, completely destroyed by the intensity of the previous two acts. The ability to concentrate on the interplay between all four players was beyond me and I sat as the music washed over me; a bit numb but immensely satisfied.

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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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I wanted to put something amazing where you wouldn’t expect to find it. To take the first moments of the morning and fill them with something silly and sad and wonderful. Something audacious in its scope and scale. Something to make you laugh and cry and wonder before the world even knows you’re awake. Something to stuff your hearts full and send you out, into the day and into the world, wet eyed and open mouthed. Daniel Kitson Read the rest of this entry »

These have all probably been blogged to death by now but there’s no rush where Daniel Lopatin‘s concerned. I could literally watch nobody here forever. Or at least an entire afternoon at work.

Apparently there is some sort of arts festival in Edinburgh at the minute. If that’s the case, can someone please explain to me why I have to travel through to Glasgow to see some decent music through the month of August? For ten quid the line up at the Volcanic Tongue curated Subcurrent festival totally urinated over the middle-aged mediocrity of the entire Jazz and Blues Festival (Curtis Stigers anyone?). Fine, there is a market for it but surely we have to be mixing it with something a little more progressive??

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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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A weekend full of art openings just past (the Edinburgh festival season is upon us), the highlight certainly being getting to see the latest installment of Alastair Cook‘s MALIN film and soundtrack project on Thursday night. After encountering him supporting Christ. and Christian Kleine last year, I’ve been following his work keenly. If February’s MALIN II show (alongside Erstlaub) suggested something special, this third installment delivered it.
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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.

Almost certainly my find of the week, I’m fairly late to the party but that seems appropriate enough. RUN DMT has a bit of a weed fascination which filters through his track titles and sample-based recording aesthetic. The listening experience is a stoned meander, a munchie-frenzy through a large box of Dilla’s donuts, flicking through the channels of an abandoned radio discovering strange but familiar frequencies.

Download the excellent Bong Voyage for free from his myspace.