Tagged: avant-rock

Yaschichek, Little Box

Herewith four more cassettes from the Russian Spina!Rec label. Arrived here 20th December 2016.

Andrey Popovskiy is the St Petersburg composer whose work has been arriving here since 2014. If there’s any connection between his releases Rotonda and Kryukov, it might have something to do with the way sound behaves in an enclosed space, and the exigencies of recording devices in attempting to capture the elusive reality of acoustical behaviours. While Rotonda seemed to misfire for Jack Tatty, we liked the mysterious properties of Kryukov (his split tape with Dubcore) and the way it somehow summoned an aesthetically pleasing effect from such everyday banality. Even to call Popovskiy a “kitchen sink” composer would be to make it far too exotic; he’d be happy to occupy the cupboard under the sink, along with the cartons of bleach. Works For Voice Recorders 2011 (SR029) takes this pared-down approach to an even further extreme. On the A side, there are five short pieces documenting his experiments with voice recording devices (dictaphones, perhaps? If those things even exist any more), placed inside a room and capturing whatever external bumps and groans may come their way. There’s also something about the devices being used to record themselves – contact mics placed in their own innards, or something. All manner of recorded artefacts are generated in a refreshingly non-digital manner. I can’t account for why this unprepossessing, near-blank grind effect is so compelling, but I can’t stop listening to it.

On the flip is a long piece called Zvukovanie, and is a far more ambitious composition lasting some 34 mins. He’s created layers of sound from field recordings out in the streets, musical performances, and rehearsals, superimposing them into what is described as a “three-dimensional” piece. Percussionist Mikhail Kuleshin and improvising trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky join him in this task. While this might seem a recipe for chaos, in Popovskiy’s hands it results in a very pleasing jumble of balmy strangeness, drifting and shifting in unexpected ways. The listener is not being “directed” to pay attention to any one element, and instead is free to wander in an open landscape of sound events, much like an exotic street bazaar, and picking up what trinkets they may. Delightful.

SR027 is a split. The side by Andrey Svibovitch did little for me; very ordinary sounds emerge from his synths (probably due to use of over-familiar filters or pre-set sounds) and he has a simplistic approach to playing chords, both of which point to under-developed techniques. He produces a stream of undemanding electronica with little structure or originality. The four parts of “What Hides The Voice” were originally presented as part of a multi-media installation with the work of visual artist Maxim Svishev. Svibovitch creates his music using voice samples, yet what ends up on the tape is so synthetic and processed it seems to have zero connection to anything as natural and human as a voice.

The side by Sergey Vandyshev is more engaging. The electronic music of this fellow is described as an experiment in “pure data”, and there are references to “digital generators” and “granular synthesis algorithms”…most of this is beyond my ken, but it seems to point to a process-based approach where machines do most of the work, but also indicates that Vandyshev is a skilled manipulator of digital data, perhaps doing it “at source” in some way. What I mean by that is he may bypass the conventional routes of feeding information through pre-sets and filters. Anyone who can run an algorithm at granular synthesis level is capable of anything. The sound of his untitled tracks is certainly quite clean, and feels uncluttered by unnecessary elaborations. I also like the loops, repetitions and insistent pulsations, which are set forth in a very porous, open-ended manner, as if he’s found a way to avoid the trap of the strict grid-systems imposed by digital sequencers. This reminds me very much of a more low-key version of Pimmon.

SR028 is a split. For this release we have a rare (for this label) instance of acoustic music played on musical instruments – as opposed to their standard electronic fare. Blank Disc Trio are a Serbian group of improvisers who have been at it since the late 1990s. It used by a duo of the core members Srdjan Muc and Robert Roža (guitar and electronics, respectively), but have since been joined by Georg Wissel, who puffs a “prepared” alto saxophone. For this tape, they were joined by the pianist Dušica Cajlan-Wissel and the electric guitarist Julien Baillod. What they play is a rather tentative version of the “electro-acoustic improv” thing, a form which in their hands takes a long time to get started and is littered with many half-baked stabs and much guesswork along the way. I like the abrasive textures they manage to summon up, and it’s good that they know when to shut up and leave gaps for each other, but overall there isn’t enough coherence or continuity in these wispy musical ideas to sustain my interest.

On the flipside we have Ex You, another three-piece of Serbian experimenters. Milan Milojković, László Lenkes and Filip Đurović blend electronics, guitar, and drums into a pleasing scrabbly mess of non-music, keeping it fairly low-key and resisting the temptation to create a hideous energy-noise blaroon-out. The addition of guest cello player Erno Zsadányi only increases our pleasure in this grumbly, meandering groan-fest. Like their Blank Disc brothers, this group sometimes finds it hard to crank up the old motor, but once they get it turning over we’re guaranteed a much more exciting drive through the old Serbian mountain tracks. I wish more drummers could act with the restraint and decency of Đurović; he doesn’t call attention to himself with fills and ornament, but his steady gentle pulsations give a surprisingly sturdy backbone to this music. Two members of the trio also play in Lenhart Tapes Orchestra, should you feel curious to investigate the Serbian “scene” further; their 2014 album Uživo Sa Karnevala Glavobolje looks like the one to go for.

The tape Povstrechal Gaute Granli (SR030) is a team-up between Mars-69 and Gaute Granli, another one of the Russian-Norway “hands across the water” affairs which this label does so well. Mars-69 are I assume Mars-96 with a slight change to the name – at any rate the core members of this Palmira trio appear to be intact. They’re about the most prolific bunch on the Spina!Rec label and we’ve enjoyed most of their disaffected noisy work. I always thought they were a guitar-bass-drums trio but here they’re spinning their craft with synths, syn-drums, and vocals. As for Gaute Granli, we’ve been enjoying the solo work and group work (in Freddy The Dyke) of this Norwegian loon for many years now, and can recommend anything he’s done for the Drid Machine and Skussmaal labels. He brought his electric guitar and voice to these Povstrechal sessions. With a line-up like that, I feel I have a right to expect some serious fireworks, which is why I felt gypped by this damp squib. With the possible exception of ‘Osa’, the opening track, the tape is a lacklustre set of pointless studio noodling, half-formed ideas trailing away, and occasional absurdist vocal dribble. One waits in vain for a single idea to catch fire or take off into the stratosphere. The band had a lot of sociable fun on the day (hint: that’s code for they all got drunk) – the press write-up seems to indicate as much – but that doesn’t justify the release of this self-indulgent nonsense.

White Stripes

Portentous art-rock from Canadian combo Fond Of Tigers…on Uninhabit (OFF SEASON RECORDS / DRIP AUDIO OFF007), their two main modes appear to be frenetic drumming and guitar anthems, with the band intent on working themselves up to a massive climax, or obscure ballad-tempo songs where the vocal elements are obscured and mumbly. This Vancouver band play guitars, electronics, keyboards, and violin, are led by the singer and guitarist Stephen Lyons, and are labelled with a “post-everything” tag. They’re aiming for themes of “chaos” and “terror”, attempting to strike a certain panic into the heart of the listener. They even call their own music by the friendly name of “the beast”, as though it’s something bigger than they are, and they can’t quite tame it. All of this is reflected in the band name, I suppose, and the cover photo which shows the faces of all seven members superimposed on top of each other. Has some moments of interest, but it feels like all the musicians are trying too hard, straining for deep meaning, and producing thereby a lumbering and sprawling album. From 12th December 2016.

Happy Birthday

Longstone (1997 – 2017), Smokey Joes, Cheltenham, Saturday 5th August, 2017

Smokey Joes is your go-to restaurant if you’re celebrating your birthday in Cheltenham: an archetypal American diner with all the trimmings: red leather booths, checkered vinyl flooring; table cloths somewhere in between; walls as stuffed with rock memorabilia as the menu is with heart-stopping milkshakes. A jukebox full of 7” oldies like Sally Go Round The Roses. More Lynch than kitsch, its situation in a faceless, city centre sidestreet compounds the peculiarity, but stranger things take place out back, where the picture is of the Wild West time-warped, Burroughs-style, into a video games arcade and inhabited by robots and a cabinet full of Star Wars figures doing the arctic can-can. The juxtaposition of a giant ice cream and a crow sign acts as wry telltale of the appetite that gets its fix in here: the Xposed club. The monthly event – tirelessly organised and promoted by Stuart Wilding – has hosted improvisors great and small, recent notables including Han Bennink and Pat Thomas. As divergent as it gets from Smokey Joe’s devotional offering to American consumerism, the club tenders its own monthly offerings with the best of Europe’s experimental music, staging a cultural balance almost unheard of in a city so often satisfied with middle-of-the-road.

Tonight’s birthday is that of 20-year electro stalwarts Longstone, celebrating their respectable innings in the musical margins. Many may remember the work of Mikes Ward and Cross; noticed by The Wire and Radio 3’s Mixing It in the ‘90s, the duo’s swift shift from local venues to those across the pond surprised them as much as anyone, though it didn’t generate a giant profile in the long term. Judging by the attendance on this Saturday evening though, it’s clear that there’s no shortage of well-wishing in the wings. The place is packed with friends and colleagues – some from as far away as Canterbury – the patrons in question arriving with nothing less than a Speak & Spell birthday cake and bottles of bubbly to toast the anniversary.

Longstone take the stage (well, two tables) at 11pm, prior to which patrons are treated to an evening of studied and soothing oddities including bass clarinetist (and Longstone recruit) Chris Cundy’s splendid solo set for bass clarinet and tape, a recital of a piece by Dutch composer Ton de Leeuw that I’d have sworn was improvised, were Cundy not so immersed in notation, showing zenlike motion-in-stillness through gentle, flickering runs across the undulating tape drone, but broken by the odd lung-depleting exhortation. He’s followed up by the ever avuncular Phosphene aka broadcaster, writer, raconteur and music encyclopedia John Cavanagh, wielding clarinet, VCS3 synthesizer and unaffected English eccentricity in a welcoming melange of glitched pastoralia, poetic lyricism and a turn to more sinister, low-end friendly drone. First joined by a split 7” with Longstone, he remains connected by friendship and a common affinity for off-kilter electronics. Third up is guitarist and long-term Longstone confederate Jon Attwood aka Yellow6, whose sublime and spectral, echo-laden chords hang like wood smoke in winter air, the uncanny resemblance of which to Flying Saucer Attack crystallises in his beat-box undercoated tribute to that enigmatic act.

Listening the main act soundcheck while Billy Ocean and Adam & The Ants occupy the restaurant airwaves was treat enough, but when they do kick off – right after Yellow6 – it’s in matching red & black fleeces (perhaps Ward’s Brickwerk side project was coined under such conditions?) before a bank of buzzing video games. Mario Kart 2’s twists and turns between the Two Mikes offer serendipitous eye candy analogue to those emerging from their banks of dials and wires. They’re visibly chuffed with the evening’s turnout, and their set lacks no bounce as a result. Listeners to their 20-year anthology will have recognised much of the content; it’s a chronological Greatest Hits tour, with bags of physical energy to boot. Some way in, the three recent recruits: Cundy (bass clarinet, vox), Wilding (well-battered percussion) and Kevin Fox (guitar/bass) stake space among the video games to peddle their wares with no shortage of relish. Though occasionally overshadowed by the foreground electronics, the unleashed trio drive the mix across an improvised bridge of the canyon-spanning rope variety – cramming in a Cundy original along the way – and into the second charge of beat-driven hit-smashing, and finally through to the serving of slices of celebratory Speak & Spell cake.

Photographs by Mike Ward/Sarah Bowden

20:20 Vision

Longstone
20
BANDCAMP PAGE

To commemorate two decades of under-the-radar activity, Cheltenham’s electro-champions Longstone are offering a downloadable anthology, 20. Clocking up a corresponding 20 tracks, the collection offers a sufficiently succinct stocktake of their work since 1996 – covering 10 CDs, 5 EPs and numerous compilation appearances – combining all into a plastic continuum steeped in permutations of their signature synth-piston pulsations stacked with voice samples (e.g. ‘A Living Space’), but finally streaking into the sunset with a red-raw rendition of their would-be masterpiece Risaikuru. Much of the interim has the aspect of a getaway vehicle for musical subgenres that have flickered in and out of favour since the ‘90s. Our boys osmotically adopt mannerisms at will, popping out process-based pop with an almost plunderphonic glee, or otherwise outsourcing strident remix duties to select colleagues.

20 broadly covers four theatres of operation: bleepy, post-idm electro-pop; dub and trip-hop-tinted downtempo eye-glaze; a wide spectrum of space rock abstraction from MBV to Add n to (x) (think Little Black Rocks); and into their more recent taste for ethno-fusion musique concrète. While little is designed to catch the eye, the duo’s facility for detailed electronic textures – be they distortion-based drone or gentle storms of synthy swirls – as well as the palpable deepening of sound-field and arrangement over the minutes – ensure listeners much slow-burn satisfaction. Along the way, one might discern family resemblances to the likes of To Rococo Rot (‘Mobilfunk’), Stereolab (‘Charles Atlas Remixed’) and even (tangentially) David Bowie in ‘Subdivision’, where the catchy walking bass and goa beat – doused in crackling electronics albeit – take ‘Sex & The Church’ rather roughly from behind.

Of immediate benefit are neighbourly encounters with outsiders like Sonic Boom, whose remix of the multilayered sound matrix of ‘Convex Structure pt.3’ (from a split 10” with Stylus) places the pop tendencies in a pressured, subterranean psychosphere, boring so deep that it all passed through to the other hemisphere and into beautiful, balmy release. Such harshening seems reserved for remixes: ‘Dulce’ is a gently mesmerising feat of repetitive construction that seems to have fallen off the back of a Kid606 EP, with gritty electro-dub throb and tinny beat-box timpani slowly hemmed in by a wall woven of warm wool.

It’s tempting to attribute similar causality to ‘Kabuki pt.3’, with its red herring blast of kosmische noise betokening high-octane spaghettification slowly supplanted by a plate of maudlin spaghetti western guitar and violin; part of the pan-globalist morphology defining Longstone’s recent work (Kabuki, Sakura and Risaikuru among) – some just layers removed from FSOL’s mid-’90s synthetic realism. The latter ‘trilogy’ especially arises from the concomitance of Ward’s interest in themes Japanese (his blog details many enviable excursions there) and the recent influx of a semi-regular cast of organic musicians: percussionist Stuart Wilding, clarinetist Chris Cundy and strings man Kev Fox, whose improvisatory backgrounds have opened Longstone up to a more indeterminate and organic worldview, and thus a bold new frontier for the coming decades.

Now I Am Beyond Belief

You may recall us raving about this Hen Ogledd LP in 2016, a great LP resulting from the team-up of avant-harpist Rhodri Davies and Richard Dawson, the English folk singer and scholar who created the remarkable record The Glass Trunk in 2013 (on which Rhodri played, come to think of it). Well, these two have now turned Hen Ogledd into a band or project of some sort, and here’s their LP Bronze (ALT-VINYL AV069), an astonishing six tracks of musical noise realised with the help of Dawn Bothwell, plus guest players Laura Cannell and Jeff Henderson.

That’s Richard’s artwork on the front cover, a collage called ‘Golden Person’, and with its near-anonymous implacable stare and inscrutable alien visage, this face immediately clues you in that you’re about to spin a very special record. From the opening track I thought we might be embarking on some pagan-mystery theme, rich in dark magick and old straight tracks and stone monuments…it’s called ‘Ancient Data’, an evocative title if ever there was…and on one level may summon up visions of early astronaut visitors and dreams inspired by Erich Von Daniken, or more simply may be a fancy way of referring to archaeology. However, musically it’s an uncategorisable sound, and only the voice work of Dawn Bothwell and the haunting recorders of Cannell might substantiate my theory, adding a mystical folk-flavour to the strange electronic and plucked jumble of inventiveness.

As to that, I suppose a cursory read of the credit notes may give some small indication of what Davies and Dawson were doing at Blank Studios under the watchful ear of Sam Grant (who recorded it), and once again Rhodri is amplifying and electrifying his harps to produce intense, astringent noise and bone-shattering drones, even surpassing his incredible work on Wound Response (amplification and distortion used for devastating results). But he also plays the loudhailer, nails, and marble. Richard Dawson’s credit list is even more arcane, including a number of things which might seem more at home inside a witch’s cupboard than in a recording studio; I could read these two lines of text over and over, until they resemble a form of poetry.

I say this in some attempt to account for the uncanny force and deliberation behind these eerie sounds, at times crude and brutal as the best post-punk band that ever existed, at times ringing together with a spiritual harmony and peacefulness that puts the listener at one with the universe, such as on ‘Beyond Belief’, a superb English update on the music of Popl Vuh. Perhaps Dawn Bothwell, with her synths, effects, and mostly her singing voice, is doing something to temper the alien-inspired antics of the two male players, and her sweetening influence is most evident on the short but gorgeous ‘Gwawr in Reverse’. But she also ends the album with her spunky lyrics to ‘Get My Name Right Or Get Out!’, a title which needs no explanation, and a song which comes over as feisty as a combination of Poly Styrene and Honey Bane.

There’s also the uncanny epic sprawl of ‘Gondoliers’ (the A side of this LP is so right-on it just destroys) and a real misfit on the B-side called ‘Amputated Video’. The broken electronic yawp of this gem has to be heard to be believed; so many English players aspire to capture the truth of the Radiophonic Workshop in their synth-led tributes, but this is the real goods, something which has crawled out of a demented dream-version of 1970s BBC daytime television like a manifestation of all your worst Dr Who fears. I think this record wipes the floor with a lot of contemporary pretenders who dabble in “ceremonial” or “pagan” music without any real understanding of what they mean, and the breadth of its sonic ambition is enormous. Truly astounding, and highest recommendation for this incredible piece of work. From 15th November 2016.

Yoruba Spells

Rob (u) rang
Ofò
BELGIUM SUB ROSA SR408 CD (2016)

Within the lurid sleeve depicting producer Gabriel Séverin’s (Rob (u) rang since 2000) bared chest lurk nine pieces of electronic avant pop music; detourned somewhat with what appears to be an attempt to thread a seam of African occultism throughout. Specifically, he informs us that he employs yorùbá spells – writings and recordings thereof I’m assuming acquired himself – from trips to Nigeria and Benin. The accompanying booklet attached to the inside of the fold-over digipak includes these texts along with translations into English.

Judging by the sound of the opening track, “Le Lion Et Le Gazelle”, the esteemed Mister (u) rang is quite busy enjoying the process of recording music without paying too much attention to the detail; the music is ragged, sounds cobbled together or barely held together, with mismatched delay times while pre-set rhythm settings (a vintage Ace Tone Rhythm Ace drum machine from Rob’s own collection, no less?) predominate. But that’s the whole idea and it’s a good one. This mildly wonky approach works well with the material and results in a deliberately unbalanced listening experience.

On the third track, “Begin to understand”, Séverin credits himself with “subterranean bass guitar”. Did he actually bury it? Flute weaves around percussion samples that have blunt, soporific edges almost like what I imagine 23 Skidoo might have sounded like on Nytol. As it progresses, heavily processed harmonium courtesy of Xavier Klaine fluctuates.

Séverin covers some ground stylistically. “Àjídéwe” I could describe as acoustic breakbeat, while “Les puisatiers” – “The Well Diggers” – has a flute bed that wouldn’t sound out of place in the background at a travellers’ hostel in Goa. In the booklet in amongst the spells is a piece of text by Laszlo Umbreit – the field-recordist responsible for the Sounds of Europe website – about the physical act of digging a well: “…things get perilous 5 or 6 metres deep, because the soil grows soft again as you get close to the water. You have to know when to stop before the hole, now ten metres deep, collapses over the digger…” “Oògùn eti didi” on the other hand, is flecked with jazz with a repeated bass motif. “Ìdáàbòbò ọba lówó ikú” features pitch-shifted vocals, heaving woodwinds and woozy electronics. Bringing things to a close, the final piece, “Oògùn éfọrí” is a maelstrom of contrasting elements; tablas spar with the trusty Rhythm Ace, buzz-saw guitars compete with what could be samples. The results are disorientating and strange.

A fine set of transporting vintage electronics mixed with medicated afro-funk elements – which in the wrong hands might result in an unholy stew of Fela Kuti meets Klaus Wunderlich – here, reminiscent of what used to be called “chill-out music” in parts, but with a sharper, darker edge. Tradition meets modernity across continents.

Northern Sludge

Lost Head (BIOLOGICAL RECORDS BR-07) is the latest project we’ve received from the very wonderful Dave Cintron, American guitar all-rounder who has come our way on great recordings by other Cleveland bands Terminal Lovers and Scarcity Of Tanks, proving once again that great things breed in large swarms on the shores of Lake Erie. This time, Cintron is joined by fellow Terminal Lover drummer Scott Pickering and bassist Rick Kodramaz, and you could hear their 2014 debut performance on a CDR called Zen Pissed released by Tom Orange. Orange, who blurts the alto sax on this album, had the guts to call himself Orange Claw Hammer on one cassette, but given the superficially “Beefheartian” vibe of this squiggly record, it’s a forgiveable lapse.

Aye, the Lost Head have quickly developed their own very convincing take on a punky rock-jazz thing, and they do it with no straight lines or “tasteful” licks, just plenty of squirming energy and action-painting effects. It’s as though they were trying to recreate a version of Ornette’s Prime Time without hearing a single note of music and just going on a description they read in a jazz journal. A jazz journal whose pages had somehow become interleaved with Maximum Rock’N’ Roll, that is. On two of the strongest cuts here, ‘Escapee’s Lament’ and ‘Northern Sledge’, the quartet create an ingenious, amorphous gaseous purple ball of jazz-inflected noise, where the rhythm section are phenomenal – never once settling into a familiar groove and keeping the pulsebeat living and breathing by playing “around” the beat (as the great free jazz percussionists of the 1960s aimed to do). ‘Squeezing Graphene’ is a little more conventional with the souped-up funky rhythms as if aiming for a more wired, coked-up imitation of On The Corner by way of James Chance and The Contortions, but the energy falters not for one second.

‘Cargo Cult’ is cut from another cloth, a mysterious foray into scrapey noise, atmospheric mystery and forlorn guitar lines droning in dissonant manner. If it weren’t for Cintron’s tendency to occupy every space he can in the music (this seems to happen on every record he plays on, and he seeks out like-minded musicians who do the same), this track would be a genuine chiller. Drummer Pickering did the cover painting also. A great release from November 2016.

You Set The Scene

From OSR Tapes, we have a CD by Marlon Cherry (OSR73) which reissues two of his records – the 12-inch EP Life After Theatre from 1986 and Pete from 1990. This may be something of a rescue job by label boss Zach Phillips, who knows Marlon Cherry personally and is aware of Cherry’s presence in various New York City music scenes – playing at university dance classes, busking in the subway, and as a supporting member of various local bands. Originally from North Carolina, Cherry used to play bass in ANTiSEEN, Jeff Clayton’s punk band which formed in 1983, but he’s also played in Mecca Bodega, Afro-Jersey, Church Of Betty and The Roches. I never heard the music of any of these bands, although many of them are represented on Chris Rael’s label Fang Records in NYC, and their music may include elements of funk, soul, and experimental rock.

The same musical broad-mindedness shows up on all the songs on this CD comp, on which Marlon wrote everything, sings, and plays all the instruments…he’s turned in a hugely enjoyable set of melodic songs, with elements of funky rock, psychedelia and easy listening (he even pays tribute in song to Arthur Lee, an obvious precedent), and with his confident singing Marlon at a stroke reclaims the whole rock’n’soul thing from Hall And Oates, in the service of his highly original songs. Very impressed by Marlon’s facility with playing and singing music, and the unfussy production technique is also a winning plus on both records. Incidentally the 1986 12-incher was produced by Jeff Murdock, who played with Cherry in The Streets Living Theater on their sole record in 1983. The front cover painting to this one, depicting a mysterious urban tragedy, is by Alexander Clark. Delighted to hear this (to me) unknown gem, from 28th October 2016.

Psychedelic Train

Many years ago we received and noted two unusual records from Cream Of Turner Productions, a label based in Philadelphia. Both Heart Land and Sunlore existed in vinyl editions, but in 2011 they sent us CDR versions which had been hand-crafted to a high degree, using art materials, in order to resemble exact miniatures of their vinyl counterparts. The musicians David Marino, Ron Lent, Bill Errig and Ahmed Salvador (joined by Ford Sylvester on one of the LPs) created two dream-like records of intense, dank, psychedelic music, fit for restless sleepwalkers. In my mind I filed these records alongside those by Heart Of Palm, the Chicago unknowns who somehow fail to create much of a stir anywhere, yet create fine krautrock-inspired music on their own terms.

Well, after some six years, Cream Of Turner have finally managed to release their third LP, Union Pacific Vol. 1. (CT./458) credited to Heart Land. David Marino and Ahmed Salvador are still active and play on this one, along with Matthew Pruden, the guitarist Peter Tramo, the bass player Wilbo Wright, and the excellent vocalist Patrice Carper. The entire record is based around the recording of a model train set, which is close-miked or amplified in some way, in order to generate abstract electronic sounds. On top of this shifting mechanical drone, Patrice Carper contributes her free-form moaning vocals, and the work is supplemented by layers of guitar, bass and percussion. No keyboards or synths in sight, which might seem slightly surprising given the very droney and kosmische feel of this record. It seems to tread roughly the same inter-galactic ground as Tangerine Dream or Cluster, achieving the sensations of infinite distance and space-travel largely through use of echo, amplification, and effects. I like the idea that this sense of vastness is conveyed through such modest means, i.e. the sound of a miniature train set; it seems to say something about the possibilities of art, and how we could all be bounded in a nutshell and count ourselves the king of infinite space.

While this music may be languid and spaced-out, delivered in a slightly hippy-drippy fashion (not even the soggiest Steve Hillage records were this laid-back), it’s evidently being played in real time by real human beings playing real instruments, responding to changes in timbre and direction, and not following a programmed path nor needing to be propped up by digital processing or synthesis. What emerges on the record may feel unfinished – Heart Land haven’t yet figured out how to end their lengthy explorations in a satisfactory manner – but in this instance, it creates a convincing environment which surrounds and nurtures the listener. In this, Heart Land and the label fulfil their goal of creating their “own personal hybrid of improvised psychedelic and avant-garde music”. I’m slightly disappointed by the cover. It’s not a great design, and more to the point it weakens the mystique of the music to see these rather ordinary photos of the musicians at work, no matter how evocative the lighting and colour scheme may be. Still, a minor quibble when you have such an unusual and pleasing item in your hands. From 7th September 2016.

Saturn Radio Waves

Güiro Meets Russia
Dystopia
SPAIN VERLAG SYSTEM VS011 CD (2016)

Nice, heady German Kosmische/Progressive-flavoured synth-gush on offer here. Plaudits and acclaim for that from me, straightaway. Of course the big names like Faust, Can and Neu! are massively influential and their varied mythologies are attractive to those of a certain age, myself included. If I make overt and unnecessary references to Ash Ra Tempel, Cosmic Jokers, Popol Vuh, Cluster, Amon Duul and similar others during the course of this review I apologise – I read Future Days, David Stubbs’ overview of the 1970s German progressive scene, recently. So I’ll try to control myself. This Spanish duo’s own press release states their interests as “…IDM, Cold Wave, Synth Pop and Kosmische Music…” I don’t get the Cold Wave reference as much as the Kosmische, but it’s good to hear younger practitioners of this type of music; like Jupiter Lion or – perhaps more tenuously – one of my favourite young bands at the moment; Ulrika Spacek. These days, even some of the remaining old psyche favourites are made up of young musicians these days, take Nik Turner’s Inner City Unit, Faust (both versions), or perhaps Gong, who seem to be currently made up of people who weren’t even born in the seventies, let alone the sixties. No matter. There’s a suitably urgent start to this cosmic banana. “Rootless” is just that – a kind of exhilarating, rudderless plunge into wild, arpeggiated, motorik territory. The title track is built around a relentless home-entertainment keyboard drum preset, while woozy synth pads waver in pitch by one or two percent. Chiming melody gives way to celestial, decellerating sirens. The third track, “Die Reise” displays Güiro Meets Russia’s most obvious krautrock influences, but that’s no problem for me; I’m in just the right kind of mood for it. “The Possibility Of An Island” is more laid-back with its 4/4 mid-tempo rhythm and great swells of synthesiser. Things proceed in this way for an appropriate duration until finally, to finish things off, GMR move into more relaxed Gong or Hillage territory with “Deus ex Machina”. Something new for Steve Davis’ DJ-ing record box for sure. But who are GMR? I don’t know – I’ve spent longer than was probably wise trawling the interweb in order to try to find out – but all to no avail. It doesn’t matter. Rest assured there is nothing dystopian about this record despite its title – perhaps the title is ironic, or perhaps a more abstract political comment. Either way it’s good, and deserves your attention.

Bandcamp page