Tagged: neo-psychedelic

Children of the Sun

You Can See The Sound Of

Within the bounds of space rock, any band aiming to escape Earth’s atmosphere simply can’t avoid the pull of a certain raggle taggle band of Ladbroke Grovers. Their template; where a relentless mulch of rudimentary chord shapes meet a morass of oscillatory gurgle is the alpha and omega of all things kozmik and is still a very attractive/thrilling one to these ears. In other words, when reviewing candidates from this sub-genre, any mention of Hawkwind is surely unavoidable. Starting with In Search of Space, their sphere of influence ranges from Simply Saucer to Chrome to Subarachnoid Space to Nebula to…Electric Moon. A German three-piece consisting of guitarist/synthesist Sula Bassana, fuzz bassist Komet Lulu and drummer Michael Orloff, whose ten inch e.p. You Can See The Sound Of… (SULATRON RECORDS ST1301) is kitted out with all the prerequisite moves – albeit equipment-wise, things have moved onwards/upwards since Del ‘n’ Dikmik’s disparate jumble of noise generators first kicked into action. Of the three tracks, that feeling of having your conciousness fed through a sausage-maker at sub-mach speed is best realised within the hell for leather, imposing motorik thrum of “The Inner Part” instro. I’d expect that by now this release, resplendent in its white vinyl livery, has sold out of its run of five hundred, but… sweet christmas!! E. Moon’s back catalogue space is d-e-e-p (sorry!) with sixteen (count ‘em) albums to their name, waiting patiently in line, to be investigated.

Sore Eros

Staying with the humble ten incher, the Jamaica Plain e.p. (CARE IN THE COMMUNITY CARE006) originally recorded in 2002 and unreleased until now is a mild-mannered clinch between Matador Records’ resident singer/songwriter Kurt Vile and tape manipulator/palindrome Sore Eros (a.k.a. Robert Robinson). A languid and unhurried thread runs through all three cuts, ‘specially so on “Serum” a mush-mouthed, heavy-lidded drifter that nods (off) towards near-comatose balladry in the manner of Faust’s “Jennifer”. The two instrumentals “Calling Out of Work” and the aforementioned “J. Plain” are slightly more alert and focused, The former recalling mid-period Tangerine Dream and possibly U.S. analogeur Robert Rich circa the Bestiary album. The latter meanwhile, magics up images of a John Fahey as a beach bum figure, Hawaiian-shirted, aviator-shaded, string bending and picking from a rather comfortable-looking hammock. Horizontal living at its best!

gyratory system

Now heading towards the Gyratory System; a name that has surely been chosen for its slight edge of ambiguity. Is it a reference to circular intersections or a series of futuristic dance steps outlining a more violent and flailing version of ‘The Twist’? Their “Harmonograph” c/w “Doodlebug” release (SOFT BODIES RECORDS SBR04) is a bit of a headscratcher and no mistake, inasmuch as the London-based Robin Blick and James Weaver (aka G.M.), have decided to put this out as an MP3 download. Yet perversely, I’ve been sent a cdr to promote it! The ‘a’ side can also be found on the “Utility Music” collection which, again, is a digital download and if you’re of that persuasion…fine. But to a surly curmudgeon of a certain vintage, raised on sleeve art, gatefold sleeves and clarifoil , it doesn’t really count. Nevertheless “Harmonograph” is a sparklingly melodic form of incidental muzak/testcard-derived electro-whimsy which would bear close comparison with The Moon Wiring Club and some of the spectral switch doctors from the Ghost Box imprint. If, like me, you’re a fan of traditional audio; which can be handled, filed and has its own atomic structure, you may be spurred on to investigate the tangible side of the System with The Sound Board Breathes and New Harmony c.d.s on the Angular label; both of which could still be available (?). And here’s one for ‘coincidence corner’…”Thorney Island”; a track off of “Utility Music” lies one mile to the east of me. A former RAF base, once home to the Argosy and the Hercules. I wonder if G.S. were originally from this area?

Red Dust

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Bizarre skull-laden item from Romain Perrot, here performing under his Roro Perrot alias. This diminution of the Christian name is for me one of the more endearing traits of French culture; the way Henri becomes Riri, Estragon becomes Gogo, and so on. I think it’s the way a French mother shows affection for her children. As to that, you may think that only Romain Perrot’s mother could love a ramshackle album like Musique Vaurienne (DECIMATION SOCIALE), but you should bend an ear to this far-out item of disjunctive amateurish guitar noise and unearthly caterwauling and decide for yourself. An electric guitar is mangled and shredded, producing awful tuneless noises and formless shapes, with no attempt made by the player to disguise the clumsy, lumbering manner in which his paws clutch and tug at the metal strings and leaving all “mistakes” and duff notes as part of the finished work. Occasionally the guitar-playing is either fed through a clunky antique reverb unit, or else recorded as though Roro were playing in a deserted chicken coop at four AM – there’s that strange feeling of “distance” that recording engineers try their best to eliminate, and in places this is like hearing a live bootleg of The Magic Band recorded through an old sock. Then there’s the hideous singing, which lurches wildly from nauseating groans to primitive animalistic grunts and strange obsessive repetitions of dumb phrases, much like the mutterings of a raving loon. In all, this is an endearing and very human attempt to bring “rock music” right back to its radical beginnings – assuming those beginnings are aligned, not with Elvis Presley, but with the earliest days of Neanderthal Man. I realise that most listeners will lose patience in about five seconds with these broken non-musical outbursts, but Roro doesn’t care – the insouciance is shown not just in his music here, but also in the titles, which taken together in translation amount to “So what…fuck off…who gives a shit…nothing”. How much more Punk Rock do you want? It’s not the first time that Perrot has picked up a guitar, but this is a great example of his unique craft, simultaneously reinventing and parodying rock music on his own terms.

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The album Love Song for Broken Buildings (QUIET WORLD FORTY THREE) in fact contains no songs, nor even any industrial-style noise sounds you might associate with wrecked buildings or demolition sites, but instead a suite of charming electronic instrumentals concocted by Kostoglotov, the alias of Daryl Worthington from London. Label boss Ian Holloway was impressed enough by Kostoglotov’s two previous releases to find a home for this one, and he praises the painterly qualities of the music (light and colour) while also situating it stylistically in a general Kosmische / Cluster / Sky Music milieu. It might be apt to imagine Kostoglotov wheeling his camera down a boulevard of derelict houses, and drinking in the visions of solitude and urban decay. There’s a human side to it also; certain tracks suggest that broken buildings are a sanctuary of sorts for him, a place he can retreat in search of solace or meditation, even inviting like-minded friends into the shared space. Personally I like the muscular qualities of the openers ‘Nervous Things’ and ‘Broken Buildings’, whose brevity (two minutes apiece) I would also commend; and the sub-bass throbs of ‘Cement’ have a brooding minimal inscrutability which I enjoy. But I’m afraid I found the rest of the work drifts off too easily into meandering, ambient drones, whose overall sound is just too familiar and user-friendly for my tastes, tuneful and pleasant though it be. From September 2013.

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Another fine piece of retro-prog played in the 1970s style on The Papermoon Sessions (SULATRON RECORDS st1303-2), where the Copenhagen trio Papir jam it up with Electric Moon, the German duo of Komet Lulu and Sula Bassana. For this 2012 session they produced just three tracks, two of which are lengthy star-struck freakouts worthy of their Hawkind and Grateful Dead antecedents, and Mogens Deenfort (from Mantric Muse, Øresund Space Collective and The Univerzals) with his synthesizers has brought additional electronic freakery to the echo-drenched party. ‘Farewell Mr. Space Echo’ is sixteen minutes’ worth of hard proof that the Pink Floyd album Ummagumma continues to hold more sway than the Book Of Kells across certain strains of unreconstructed European hippiedom. ‘The Circle’ is even longer in duration, but less effective somehow; wallowing around in vaguely jazz-tinged soloing for its first half, then sinking slowly into a miasma of one-chord pounding thereafter. The sound is just a shade too cluttered, but I suppose that’s a danger when you bring two long-hair bangle-wearing bands together in the room. Even so, all of these Sulatron releases are recommended if you already have a huge collection of 1970s prog and krautrock, and want to hear it re-expressed even more emphatically than the original creators of the genre could manage.

Birds flying high

Last heard from Yannick Franck in 2012 with his Memorabilia album, now here he is teaming up with the American sound artist Craig Hilton to produce Flowers for L.P. (IDIOSYNCRATICS idcd009), a truly centre-less piece of hollowed-out drone, one where the excavation is so entire that it leaves a near-vacuum of non-sound for the listener to float like an agonised goldfish. The creators intend this chilling ambi-desolation as a tribute to an obscure French poet named Jacques Rigaut, a tragic suicide who was pegged by history as one of the Dadaists, but was so disaffected by the absurdity of everything that he never really completed his work, and left behind a few unfinished novels before shooting himself in the head. The richly-layered yet vague drones attempt to invoke Rigaut’s “dark, surreal, fantastic journeys”, acting in sympathy with his troubled soul.

Another glorpoid monster of improvised electronic murkiness with twisted dark funkoid beats from PAS Musique in Brooklyn. Abandoned Bird Egg (ALREALON MUSIQUE ALRN035) contains many surrealist-kosmische excursions by Robert L. Pepper and his crew – Michael Durek, Amber Brien, and Jon Worthley. I often visualise their collective musical outpouring as gobbets of coloured oil paint smeared thickly on the surface of a plaster wall, and their recording sessions are an attempt to capture the fascinating ways in which those paints mingle and swirl as they course downwards. If they left it too late, we’d be witnessing nothing more than a puddle of brown sludge lapping around our ankles, but their timing is usually dead-on. No vocals, apart from a few mysterious voice samples gabbling unconnected statements; otherwise very enjoyable instrumentals replete with drone, bizarre noises, extreme treatments and modifications, all heaped up in generous fashion. Natch, the finished product is somewhat uneven – not every track can be claimed a sparkling success, and some listeners may struggle with the overall “formless” approach of PAS Musique construction, but that philosophy of open-endedness is probably how they get the job done in the first place. Pepper also did the artworks; a bit like Karel Appel coming under the influence of John Dee and inscribing mystical sigils on the ground. From 24 June 2013.

Giöbia are a four-piece of Italian players from Milan producing the retro-flavoured late 1960s rock music that finds its natural home at Sulatron Records on their debut full-length album Introducing Night Sound (STI302-CD). I’m personally very partial to all the psychedelic revivalist types that swarm like mosquitoes to this label, and I do like Giöbia’s very saturated sound – scads of vintage organs and synths have their keys pressed relentlessly, and the unusual strings played by Stefano Bazu Basurto include bouzouki and electric sitar strummed to death alongside his electric guitar excesses. And the recording quality has that rich, deep sound that’s so redolent of 1969, bad acid and the imminent demise of Hendrix. I’m not as keen on the bored-sounding vocals, which I appreciate have been deliberately mixed in the background “to produce a more far-out atmosphere”, but they end up sounding just like Sundial or Spacemen 3 records. They include cover versions of songs by The Electric Prunes and Santana, but this is just further evidence of their confused identity. There’s also something off-putting about the rhythm section, which too often is heavy-handed and lumbering in the drumming, or reaching for a slightly trickier rhythm which they can’t pull off as a band. These obstacles prevent us diving headlong into the truly immersive and trippy sensations the band so earnestly wish to share. Even the gratuitous umlaut in the name feels wrong; isn’t that more of a heavy metal thing? From 6th June 2013.

YOL is a performance artist based in Hull. He kindly sent us a copy of his mini-CDR Neck Vs. Throat Volume 2 (FENCING FLATWORM RECORDINGS) where he does his shouty-gibberish thing with the help of Miguel Perez, an aggressive guitarist from Mexico who is credited with “string damage” and “guitar neck”. They never met for this recording; Perez sends his sound files to the UK digitally over the internet, and YOL just performs instantly as soon as he hits playback, “improvising over them on the first listen”. Results are certainly exciting, even slightly alarming, heady stuff; the sheer nervous energy generated by their twin manic scrabblings can be electrifying, even where you can’t understand the barked and yawped lyrics. Well, I think there may be some free-association Dada-like absurdist word streams buried somewhere here in the general hue and cry; check out the short booklet for some printed examples of YOL’s own unique approach to “words in freedom”. These texts do more than hint at urban squalor and shabbiness, and present a vision of the world from a gutter’s eye view. YOL describes the release as “an attempt to explore inside/outside noise”, whatever that means. I prefer the more user-friendly description “some sort of idiot noise busking”. As to that, I think if I met a busker like this in the London underground, I’d love to leave a £20 note in his cap, but I’d also be afraid to go anywhere near him; I have a vision of a hairy wildman cavorting about, his unwashed stringy hair flying madly 1 as he psyches his way into a groove. I realise this sort of thing is marginal as heck, but to me it’s lovely stuff. Limited to 50 copies, from 12 July 2013.

  1. This is just colourful imagery which I provide for effect; it is not in any way intended as a comment on the appearance or personal hygiene of YOL, whom I have never met.

By the Akerselva River

Pure I believe was this electronic extremist who did stuff for Mego and attained notoriety for sampling the run-out grooves of vinyl records to create his very austere digital music. He’s still milking the “end of vinyl” concept apparently, since on No End Of Vinyl (CRÓNICA 079-2013) he’s enlisted ten prominent electronica creators to contribute tracks (some of them remixes) based on the theme. Even the sleeve itself is cleverly overprinted with concentric circles on black card, so that it looks like an idealised vision of microgrooves. Hereon, @c – slow and increasingly menacing fragments of gurgly broken sounds; Christoph de Bablon – remix of the original ‘The End Of Vinyl’ to produce a boring and pompous synth tune; JSX with his ‘Biological Agents’ and a decent piece of techno-stealth dredged from the sewers of Paris; cindytalk hurling buckets of digital water over a cliff in slow motion; Goner’s remake of a Pure track, using too many effects and gimmicks until incoherence dominates; and Opcion – an effective object lesson in “less is more”, with chilling desolate tones. We also have the very interesting Arturas Bumšteinas, whose ingenious ‘Opera Povera’ was probably constructed from classical music on vinyl, and exhibits a painstaking craft that is notably absent from the other auto-piloted submissions. But Rashad Becker is also memorable with his strangely rotating and colliding elements, spinning in layers like a wall-sculpture made of 100 bicycle wheels; and Pita, whose solo work I don’t seem to have heard for a long time now, and whose ‘This & That Edit’ has the kind of purity of form that Terry Riley would adore, plus a clarity of tone that’s like spring water on an otherwise rather sludgy-sounding comp. All of these contributions show us possibilities, ways of opening out an idea through remaking and refitting. Yet very few of them really reflect the vinyl-ness of records, apart from a few audible samples of crackles and clicks which surface in some of the contributions, and the digital “identity” is very much up front – processed, artificial, impossibly “perfect”. There’s a double-edged irony to all of this, since (as the label webpage indicates) the original release of fourteen years ago was full of millennial uncertainty about the future of media carriers, and recorded music in general; it was asking the question “will vinyl die?” and weeping a solitary tear as if every CD being pressed were another nail in the coffin. Now of course, the way the tide is turning in favour of vinyl and analogue media again, it seems the question is whether the digital has a future.

Speaking of your “millennial uncertainty”, the Norwegian quartet SPUNK just completed an extremely lengthy musical project which they started in 2001. Every year they would meet up to play a single tone and continue to hold it as a sustained drone, using mostly acoustic instruments (strings, brass, woodwinds) and voices. By the time they had finished they had completed a realisation of all 12 notes in the scale. Now the collected recorded results have been released as Das Wohltemperierte Spunk (RUNE GRAMMOFON RCD2140) as a six-disc boxed set, meaning you get two of these drones per CD at approximately 30 minutes apiece. The players involved are the lovely Maja Ratkje (constantly proving herself as a formidable all-rounder – singer, composer, improviser, noise artiste) and Hild Sofie Tafjord (see previous remark), plus the cellist Lene Grenager (guesting from +3dB Records) and Kristin Andersen who plays trumpet and flute. Although not remarked on in the press notes, that’s an all-female team making this ethereal yet wiry music, and among the first things you notice is how unlike American minimalist (masculinist) music this set is: and by unlike, I mean it’s intuitive instead of programmed to death, sensitive to the listener rather than running them over with a relentless systems-based steamroller, and almost completely lacking in the enormous ego drive that, for me, characterises the long-winded work of some composers in this area. This isn’t to say Das Wohltemperierte Spunk is a set of drifty ethereal wispiness (though some may hear that at first), since there is a very simple structure at work in realising the 12 notes in a pre-determined sequence, drawing ideas about mathematical composition from Bach, and there’s an unflagging determination to see the work through to the end over a very long period. I also like the fact that they did it in a variety of locations around Oslo, including a cabin on a fjord, and a mausoleum with a very long decay time within its walls. Usually they played to a very small audience; no wonder they regarded this as a “secret shared among…closest friends”. Clearly the four of them found it a very unifying experience, and one of the keywords (which may get up the backs of some readers) is “meditative”, but there is no pretentious pseudo-spiritual psycho-babble here, just a commitment to finding (and creating) enough space to play and to listen in a very simple way. In the interests of disclosure, I’ll admit I haven’t got much beyond D# in the set so far, but even so I can report that these drones are far from being flat, smooth or boring progressions; there’s a very ragged surface to all the performances, with unexpected angles, corners and planes fully on display, and much of the genuine spontaneity that we would hope for from good improvised music; plus much variety and dimension in the tones and timbres that are being explored. In short, listening engagement is guaranteed throughout these 12 slow but intense pieces. Methinks that the effects of hearing it all in one sitting would be considerable. (13 February 2013)

From Groningen in Holland we have the fairly bizarre combo Sexton Creeps, who for their third album Alex Hotel (HEILSKABAAL RECORDS HK023) have teamed up with the sound artist Kasper van Hoek. The Creepsters pride themselves on their international membership, their shared passion for psychedelic music, and the use of home-made instruments alongside the more traditional guitar-bass-drums-keyboard setup. The opening drama ‘Homophone / The Unicorn Dies’ is a genuinely odd escapade, mainly because it works through about three different dynamic shifts, starting off as a quasi-Nick Cave dirge which lumbers forward for some minutes before exploding in the centre with a crazed echo and guitar screech-out of acid-fried freakery, then descending into the quagmire of a dark fairytale acoustic ballad sung in a minor key. The Sextoneers may come on like indifferent, slouching stoners, but when a certain switch is flipped upwards, they instantly transform into vibrant electric eels. ‘Pissing In The Woods’ is also a rum fish, a moody spookster with a compelling organ sound that would make Tom Waits trade in his golden trilby, and mumbled lyrics which may be packed with menacing symbols. As for ‘Elderly Ladies’ Umbrellas’, it confirms the band’s penchant for formless slow slide-guitar jams underpinned by eerie wailing effects; it’s as though they’d read all about Pink Floyd (1967 period) and their lost and unrecorded performances at the UFO Club and decided to reimagine for themselves what it must have been like to be that band. Did I forget to mention the contributions of the vocalist, J.C.? He’s got a great line in lugubrious mumbling when he’s doing the creepy death-ballads, but also capable of erupting into shouty and screamy blasts of horrifying proportions when the occasion demands it. While I can see this strange record appealing to the prog and psych revivalist brigade, there is also a thoroughly weird strain that writhes at the heart of this album, and the listener will struggle to pin it down like a wriggling centipede in the core of your apple. Bert Scholten did the unsettling artwork of sleeping bodies packed into a compressed grid, like human sardines. (28 February 2013)

Black and Blue Blues

Simon Balestrazzi sent us a copy of Hashima’s record from Italy – Simon may not actually appear on this 47-minute stretch of doom-laden rattling noise, but he is credited with the mastering and I venture to say that it’s a project laced with a palpable dose of the characteristic Balestrazzi traits, including that sense of blackened occultism and semi-magickal ceremony in the enactment of the mysterious sounds. Collapsing New Buildings (SANTOS PRODUCTIONS SNTSR08) echoes its way into infinity; it resounds with such ominous natural echo that it might as well have been performed in a long, old-fashioned corridor some several hundred metres in length and lined with civil-service styled wooden panelling decorating the drably-painted walls. One is reminded of the anecdote often told about the recording of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ and how the dramatic percussion effect on that record was achieved by setting up an enormous bass drum at the end of a studio corridor for Hal Blaine to bash 1. Hashima’s intentions are far from benign, and this darkened record reeks with fugged-out screams and tortured feedback effects – much like prising open an enormous door in this ‘new building’, and the entire record is characterised by ferocious percussion work reminiscent of the demolition crew hammering down walls with sledgehammers, or ripping apart metal siding inside an elevator shaft. The other part of the puzzle is that Hashima Island is a real-life location (off the coast of Japan) and a notorious site of dereliction and ruined buildings – what was once a prosperous coal mining town in the first half of the 20th century is now a major symbol of serious neglect. Two other artists who have been intrigued by this world-famous “ghost town” are CM Von Hausswolff and Thomas Nordanstad, whose response was to make a video “installation” out of the place. I have seen this video, and believe me, it’s a haunting and harrowing experience. Perhaps Hashima is another alias for Balestrazzi? Perhaps the work was actually recorded in one of the decaying buildings on that bleak atoll? Speculation aside, I would imagine the cover art for this release is a genuine Hashima photo, and you couldn’t wish for a more palpable image of extreme urban decay. The record itself more than lives up to that visual promise! Arrived 3rd January 2013, but may have been released in October 2012.

Blue Poles (SLIGHTLY OFF KILTER sok046) is a collection of aural experiments by Paul Khimasia Morgan, recorded in various locations during 2011 and 2012. They don’t seem to have any theme or connection and are related only by appearing together on this album. They comprise field recordings, pieces where he’s working with musical instruments in various combinations, or more abstract experiments in sound art using feedback and white noise through a mixing desk. Morgan restricts himself by only allowing an interpretative dimension to appear inside his titles, some of which are like isolated fragments from poetry or the opening lines of mysterious short stories. For the rest, all description is stony-faced: he delivers only a completely factual shopping list of the objects and bric-a-brac used to create each track, noting the location and place where he did it. On this outing at least, Morgan shows himself as a devotee of the “small objects and small sounds” school of sound art, creating curious creaky episodes of rather dry rattling and rustling like a slightly more fulsome version of the later Jeph Jerman. The work may occasionally produce some odd musical notes or drones from a guitar or zither, or some low-key electro-acoustic effects where a microphone or mixing desk may interact with the activities. Largely though, Blue Poles takes a non-musical and documentary approach; the musician’s own work is treated as though it were an event taking place in the countryside, and recorded as though he were making a field recording of it. This lends a diffuse quality to each piece; it’s not clear where it begins or ends, if indeed it can be said to occupy such certain ground. Rather than finished compositions, it might be more apt to regard these as fleeting snapshots of unusual phenomena in progress. (24/01/2013)

Piatcions are an Italian psychedelic rock group who made an LP called Senseless Sense in 2011; we received an advance copy of their 12-incher, Heaven’s Sins (FC009V12), from the London label Fuzz Club Records. Three tracks in fifteen minutes, including a remix of ‘Reel Loop’ by Atom Eye. I won’t pretend that any of this music is particularly “experimental”, but I like it. It brings home the bacon in terms of solid, trancey avant-rock with all the desirable qualities – a solid beat, fuzzed guitars, trippy keyboard drones. Not as self-consciously proggy or kosmische as the retro items we often get from Sulatron Records, this is good treacly dark-drug music that’ll keep a few Spacemen 3 diehards happier for a bit longer. Allegedly, they’re great in a live situation too. (22/01/2013)

The three-inch offering by Vile Plumage is another odd ‘un sent in by Filthy Turd. The Plan Be Vile, Conceived In Shame (NO LABEL CDR) is described as a “metaphysical journey…through Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent”, and consists of lo-fi field recordings made around that undistinguished locale. The recordings have been layered with an uncertain acoustic guitar plucking the idle music of the damned like a diabolical busker in the streets of Hades. Plus menacing whispers and grunts which are occasionally dropped into the continuum. The gentle noise grows into more alarming proportions, with echoed chants, strange howling effects, and gasping women victims; all the while that relentless acoustic guitar keeps on trotting out its implacable rhythm, as though its player was grinning at us with the sinful smile of the fallen. Vile Plumage is the team of Filthy Turd and Andy Jarvis, but in true magus fashion (shape-shifting like a witch’s familiar) even their very name can change at will and they are sometimes called Vile Goldenn Plumage or Goldenn Viles. The actual surface of this recording may not strike you as especially inventive at first, but persevere ye must, since a desolate and spooked vibe runs through it; it’s as though the pair shrunk themselves into small hobgoblins to capture the sounds from the “parks, tunnels and ginnels” of the area, and at length are able to transform into the hideous horned and hairy creature on the cover. Filthy Turd continues to shine his light into odd places, and you may not like what he reveals. From August 2012.

  1. Other reports say this effect was achieved with studio reverb.

Monster Rock and Mushrooms

SEID_AmongThe Monster

Seid
Among the Monster Flowers Again
GERMANY SULATRON-RECORDS ST1202 LP (2012)

Among the Monster Flowers Again marks the debut of Norwegian band Seid. Described ominously as ‘psychedelic space-rock’, the vinyl album mixes electronic sounds and sixties organ vibes to produce something highly listenable and surprisingly accessible, especially for people slightly spooked by the phrase ‘psychedelic space-rock’.

The psychedelic overtones are especially strong on ‘The Monster Flowers’, which opens the album with a real sixties hippy vibe; segueing nicely into ‘Fire Song’ which retains the hallucinogenic theme while incorporating more thrashing guitar rock sounds.

This is a theme that continues throughout the album, with each track perched somewhere between the mosh pit and Haight-Ashbury. It’s a delicate balancing act, but, for the most part, Seid manages to keep all the plates spinning without the whole thing falling down.

The space vibe really kicks in midway through the album on ’5/4′, which is the harshest and most distorted on the album, sitting somewhat at odds with the melodic sounds that reverberate through the rest of the tracks. Fortunately, this is followed by one of the album’s standout tracks, ‘Lois Loona’, which is a bit more restrained, but nonetheless a powerful piece.

‘The Tale of the King on the Hill’ is a bit of a downer, but things pick up again for tracks eight and nine, banging out more of what this band seems to do best; gentle, melodic sounds that draw you in then build to an ear-rattling crescendo. The final track, ‘Among The Monster Flowers…Again’, unsurprisingly brings us back where we started; picking up on the vibe from track one and gently setting us back down on earth after one exciting trip.

The band describes the album as ranging from “totally tripped-out mushroom dwarves who walk through bizarre landscapes to heavy psychedelic rock”. Whether that makes you start to salivate in anticipation, or run screaming for the hills, you’re likely to find something to enjoy on this album. In short, put those flares on, get that lava lamp fired up and turn the Monster Flowers up to eleven. Just watch out for those tripped-out mushroom dwarves.

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Hippogriffs


We heard from Sula Bassana in February when he contributed to the monstrous Electric Moon LP The Doomsday Machine…we first gained the impression that Dark Days (SULATRON RECORDS ST1204-2) might, in title at least, be following from that depressive slab in a similar vein of blackened, thundering, ultra-heavy psychedelic space-rock…on the contrary it turns out to be a generally uplifting and sometimes mystical album of mighty guitar riffs, supremely steady drumbeats, and cosmic flurries of synth-winds howling around every corner. Apart from percussion assist on a couple of tracks by Pablo Carneval and vocals by David Henrikkson, this is totally a solo album by Bassana (i.e. Dave Schmidt), also assisted to some degree by Komet Lulu who did the sleeve paintings of orange, brown and green mosspit-shapes crawling from the belly of the universe, said images being used in turn by the musician to influence and shape his playing as he scoped these impasto swabs of lurid smearage. Another strong album from this retroid genius, a man so besotted with Krautrock he is capable of dipping the genre in gold, while condensing all his favourite Pink Floyd moments into intense hits of overamped smokiness…this outing contains the memorable 20-minute ‘Surrealistic Journey’ which sends the listener on a “far-out trip” in line with the aspirations of any given album by Gong or Hawkwind, while for those who prefer something punchier we have the very strong opening cuts ‘Underground’ and ‘Departure’…only place where the mood sags a little is on ‘Bright Nights’, a meandering odyssey into brain cells best left unturned, resulting in shapeless noodly guitar lines and, ultimately, dollops of rather pointless noise…and I’m not so keen on the frenetic beat-loops of ‘Arriving Nowhere’ which sometimes seems to be turning its ageing grey hippy head in the direction of Techno music and misunderstanding what it sees. From 20 June 2012, also available as a double LP.

Got a large bundle of curios from the Spectropol Records label in Bellingham (Washington State)…first picked out from the envelope was Elle Avait Raison Hathor (SPECT 11) by Vincent Berger Rond. He is an electro-acoustic composer based in Quebec, and presumably appears on the back cover in his winter garb standing besides an ice sculpture of a female head and shoulders. The winter wear is our first clue that this is difficult and inhospitable music for seasoned hardy outdoors-types only, on which more shortly. Meanwhile any attempt to stare fixedly at the image of the woman in order to decipher her features will simply result in even less definition, as it gradually recedes from your intelligence evasively. The whole album, you see, is a conceptual composition addressing “notions of womanhood” and doing so by filtering its music through an understanding of mythological treatments…Japanese, Greek, Inuit and Egyptian texts are found within the booklet, dropping hints that are somewhat less than lucid, yet strangely illuminating. Circe is the well-known enchantress from The Odyssey, but in a few lines you learn more about her meaning and symbolic resonance than you could have wished for. We’ve got a female vocalist Laura Kilty on the first track, where she intones her own settings for the poetry of Rond, but after that the remainder of the album is instrumental. It features strings and piano as you might expect from classical chamber music, but also synthesisers in a couple of places, electric organ, and the multi-dubbed electric guitars of Fred Szymanski. But none of this knowledge prepares you for the sheer weirdness of the distorted soundscape – the whole record just sounds completely bizarre. Vincent Berger Rond’s technique involves a lot of cutting up, editing, reshaping, modification and recomposing, such that Szymanski’s improvised guitar lines, for example, are completely recast into incredible, impossible shapes. The notes also refer to the composer’s “spasmacousmatic” method, which is a highly evocative term suggestive of a deeply radical and idiosyncratic approach to this contemporary form of composition. Not easy to listen to, but he plays fair; the work has clearly been assembled with great care and commitment to the form, and each piece, though at first bewildering, clearly adheres to an internal logic. The womanhood theme is not really explained in detail, which is a relief to any readers who are doubtful about long-winded explanations of an artist’s intentions, but Rond provides terse informational notes about this and would probably be very pleased if we did some research into the area for ourselves. From 13 June 2012.

We noted eRikm‘s Austral in November 2012 – at any rate, the audio dimension of it, which was released by Room40 as part of the Transfall album. Now here it is again as a DVD (DAC2031) from D’Autres Cordes Records, reminding us that the composition is a mixed-media work, combining electronic music with video. The visual side to the work was also created by the composer, and shows him weaving electronically-generated abstract shapes across the screen in shades of gray, green, and red, which multiply and germinate in jerky animated fashion. These images used photographs of cities as their starting point, taken from his journeys to South America. The music is played by the Laborintus Ensemble and remains a sharp snappy piece of atonal chamber music, sounding even better in this DVD presentation. But the visuals are rather banal, very process-heavy, not much more adventurous than a first year art student exercise. From 15 June 2012.

Fractures (DEBACLE DBL076) is a perfectly pleasant record of electronica / beats music by Rainbow Lorikeet. I like the “dubby” construction of the music that emphasises the heavy beats and the spaces in between, reminding me in places of Techno Animal – which I’ll admit is one of the few points of reference I have for this musical genre. Lorikeet’s electric sounds are not very distinctive or inventive though, and I find my attention wavering very quickly after only a few moments of this over-familiar crunch-and-squelch morass.

Anita‘s Hippocamping (WILDRFID RECORDS WLDRFD006) is more successful as an example of inventive and personalised electronica. We’re not given much reliable information on her technique, but I have the impression she’s something of a mosaicist, piecing together musical fugues out of very small fragments of sounds, tones, and whatever shapes she can find lying around the floor of the workshop to pick up and add to the collage. Resultant album is a highly textured listen – you can feel your ears being dragged over a thousand different rugs, textiles, vinyl floors, coconut matting, and assorted soft (and hard) furnishings. While she doesn’t abandon form completely, Anita has very little interest in composing a tune, and would prefer to leave you spinning in an unfamiliar micro-landscape for three or four minutes at a time, while she makes a cup of coffee (small black espresso, natch) and admires the results of her labours with a wicked smirk. What’s also impressive is the very firm and muscular core to these steel-belted monstrinos; Anita is never content to settle for a comforting decaffeinated drone when she can tie you up with eighteen yards of fencing wire. Track 11 is titled ‘L’Ultimo Yogurt’, which is precisely the sort of dessert I’d expect to be served if I was invited to a dinner party by this mysterious woman. This exists as a limited LP with a screenprinted cover and insert provided by visual artist Sofy Maladie.

012

Miniature Candies


The Replace (EDITION DEGEM DEGEM CD10) compilation was put together by Marc Behrens for a Berlin label. He poses pointed questions about the many ways in which modern electro-acoustic music seemed to promise artistic utopias in the 20th century, and whether this notion still has any currency today. 14 modern electronica artistes (see image for full list of names) contribute to the debate in both musical and annotated form, covering topics such as philosophy, landscape painting, YouTube, spirituality, colour and geometric forms, and a chess-playing machine. Ambitious in scope, but so much of the music feels drab, unfinished, and half-baked.

A similarly difficult conundrum about modern life is posed by the ever-active Francisco López on his Untitled #284 (CRÓNICA 066-2012). He asks questions about reality, virtual reality, and the disappearance of real things, wondering about what it is we might actually be perceiving, as we flit about from coffee shop to shopping mall. Is it the real thing that is missing, or are we just feeding off our memories of reality? Armed with these Cartesian sentiments, and to further this poignant discussion, he reprocesses some field recordings he made in Lisbon in 1992. The accoutrements and blandishments of the modern urban world – if that is indeed what we are hearing – have rarely sounded so threatening, chaotic and alien. Looks like López peeled back the mask which cloaks reality, and didn’t like what he found.

Assured and entertaining retro-rock from Vibravoid on their Gravity Zero (SULATRON RECORDS ST 1201) album. If only they’d been operating in the UK around 1988-1989, then Spacemen 3, Bevis Frond and Sundial would not have enjoyed quite the same monopoly on lush psych-influenced muscular underground rock music. This album benefits from the rich additions of mellotron, Theremin and other far-out instruments to the punchy mix, but these Europeans also know how to compose a decent chord-filled song and stick to it. Their update on H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The White Ship’, one of my personal faves among bad-acid dirges from the late 1960s, is one of many highlights.

Pierre Alexandre Tremblay is one of many Canadian electro-acoustic composers showcased on the empreintes DIGITales label who enjoys having their work presented as a 5.1 surround sound experience in stereo, pressed on a DVD for improved audio quality. Quelque reflets (IMED 11109) contains a number of his meditative and philosophical musings in sound form, of which I most enjoyed the tripartite opening number ‘Reflets de notre société crépusculaire’, with its title highly suggestive of an unpublished Edward Gorey book. Tremblay endeavours here to express his feelings of powerlessness in today’s world. Similar ethical dilemmas are expressed on the other works.

FilFla‘s Flip Tap (SOMEONE GOOD RMSG013) is a collection of short and concise instrumental pop tunes put together by the Japanese composer Keiichi Sugimoto, and an instalment in the ’10 Songs in 20 Minutes’ series, this label’s plan to celebrate the joys of avant-pop music. Sugimoto evidently has the skill of compression and his deftness in creating these upbeat and jolly episodes with their near-perfect production sheen is considerable. If only there were some actual melodies one could sink one’s teeth into. Seconds of high-pitched and extremely pleasant electronic miniaturised candy shapes fly by, but without much apparent song-form structure to underpin them. I’d imagine this is like watching a day’s worth of Japanese TV commercials in the space of half an hour.

I’m not a serious soundtrack music collector, but I gather there has grown up a rich subculture where individual composers of library music for KPM, De Wolfe, Chappell and others are being identified and celebrated after the fact, elevated from their formerly rather anonymous positions, while original pressings of the records are eagerly collected by covetous fans and DJs. Perhaps a similar mindset informs Sid Chip Sounds: The Music of the Commodore 64 (ROBOT ELEPHANT RECORDS RER013), an extremely unusual compilation which gathers examples of music for computer games designed for the Commodore 64 home computer system, first launched in 1982. Bob Yannes is named as the pioneering maestro who made this possible through his development of the SID Chip, and a number of composers – among them Martin Galway, Matt Gray, Ben Daglish, David Whittaker and others – are all showcased with examples of their musical endeavours. The games, including Last Ninja, Gauntlet 3 and Comic Bakery, are likewise namechecked. Musically, the album may feel a bit undernourished and the annoying limitations of the squelchy electronic sound may start to grate on some ears after only 10 minutes of play, but there is much interest to be derived from the inventive ways in which the musicians learned to overcome those limitations, to produce bouncy and entertaining music. That said, I think to call them “revolutionary composers”, as per the press release, is a massive overstatement. This release plugs into a whole retro subculture of young DJs who grew up with this material as part of their personal soundtrack, and are now restating it through assorted lo-fi subgenres such as 8-bit, chiptune, and gabba. Issued as a CD and double LP; only the packaging is a massive disappointment, and I’m not sure why it couldn’t have featured some colourful screengrabs from the games (licensing problems perhaps).

Florian Hecker compiled the double 10-inch LP set with the elaborate title 2/8 Bregman 4/8 Deutsch 7/8 Hecker 1/8 Höller (PRESTO!? P!?018), and the fractions involved in that naming scheme are to do with the amount of input from each contributor. It would be interesting to apply that degree of calibration to the thorny problem of composers’ rights, so maybe Hecker should consider contracting his skills to the international rights societies for music. Forty minutes of music are thus spread across four sides to be played at 45 RPM. The first two sections seemed to be nothing more than just minimal and extremely irritating digital sequences played randomly at high speed; anonymous ringtone music. But the third and fourth segments are slightly more engaging with their looped repetitions of a short vocal sound, which could be a micro-second sampled from the voice of a female announcer and reduced to a single syllable. Doubtless, if we listened to them for long enough we would experience the aural hallucinations which Disinformation has termed “Rorschach Audio”. These represent updates on the classic Steve Reich tape loops of voice segments, although our man Hecker evinces no interest whatsoever in the human emotions, politics or spirituality evidenced on ‘It’s Gonna Rain’ and ‘Come Out’. Instead, the entire work is trying to make a marginal point about sensory perception and the psychology of hearing. Accordingly the press release comes with a reading list of academic books and papers on the subject, to assist us in our investigations. I recall feeling equally unengaged and alienated by Hecker’s Speculative Solution from 2011, and sadly this one isn’t doing much to reconcile me with the current scientific directions of his work.

All the above arrived at TSP headquarters in February and April 2012.

006

Castles in your Heart


Here’s a highlight from February 2012, Age Of Energy (NORTHERN SPY NSCD020) by Chicago Underground Duo – a glorious CD of electronics, jazz cornet, and solid rhythms. No upstarts are Chad Taylor and Rob Mazurek, who have in fact been playing together in various manifestations since the late 1990s, and in turn grew out of a renaissance of improvised music in Chicago which had been burgeoning since about 1990. They’ve had a lot of records released on Delmark and Thrill Jockey (this is their first for Northern Spy) and as this is the first I heard from them, I think that a back catalogue investigation is in order. Album contains ‘Winds and Sweeping Pines’, 20 minutes of beautiful electronic tones including perhaps some treated cornet sounds, and a piece which goes through about a dozen shifts and changes in completely unforced fashion, evoking joyous moods which contrast with more introspective and wistful emotions. Testament perhaps to their non-prescriptive and unprogrammed manner of making music. The drumming is spectacularly inventive throughout and never settles for a tedious motorik or disco beat. We only hear some recognisable cornet tones at the very end of this epic canvas, at which point the Billy Cobham fans will be leaping into the lively arena to grab a piece of this action. More suffused and understated is the track ‘It’s Alright’, a pulsating and inventive drone of textured distorto-electronica used as a platform for Mazurek’s brassy utterances. There’s also the title track, which is probably the cut most likely to appeal to listeners still seeking their thrills from 21st-century updates on Krautrock-inspired music. The rich drum sound here is something most technicians would give their right arm to achieve, smashing against the rippling waves of electronic genius-blather with zesty abandon. But it’s the tricky rhythmical base which once again is so creative, showing Chad Taylor doesn’t take coffee breaks in his mind when sitting behind his kit, and that he’s more in the lineage of a Sunny Murray than a Zappi Diermaier. Chicago Underground Duo were namechecked by the UK duo Warm Digits as one of their major influences, and you can take that to the savings & loan. Warm Digits have not slavishly copied the sounds of the Duo, but successfully emulate their passion, drive and joyful élan. Recommended. Released in March 2012, our copy received 29 February.

A very nice item is Flux (SPECTRUM SPOOLS SP010) by the American composer Robert Turman, an album he originally released on cassette in 1981. Turman’s earliest known work includes a 1979 single Mode Of Infection / Knife Ladder which he realised with Boyd Rice of NON, and because of this and Z.O. Voider he became associated with 1980s industrial music. Flux however is not abrasive grinding noise, comprising six long tracks of very gentle, melodic and understated minimal music made with piano, kalimba, tape loops, and drum machine. It’s beautiful music and the muted sound arising from this rescued cassette tape adds considerably to the charming, dream-like and restful aesthetic. A sort of less strident version of The Residents around the time of Commercial Album, mixed with Brian Eno’s ambient sensibilities, particularly Music For Airports. The press release points out the ingenious cross-rhythms in play, and praises Turman’s skills in realising this complex music while overcoming hurdles presented by the limitations of the equipment available to him, which is now regarded as somewhat primitive. Since 2009, Robert Turman has enjoyed a productive partnership with Aaron Dilloway who released albums for him on the Hanson label, and provided the scans of the original cassette for this reissue. One of the better releases from this label. Released as a double LP on St Valentine’s Day 2012.

The team of Lull, Beta Cloud and Andrew Liles all collaborated to produce Circadian Rhythm Disturbance Reconfigured (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR139CD), a concept album which aims to suggest the effects of insomnia through sound; in fact the creators were mostly concerned with how the affliction of sleeplessness can affect the thought processes of the human brain. It might be viewed as a vaguely sinister experiment about the effects of sleep deprivation, but also an attempt at a psychological probing of those areas of the consciousness often neglected or overlooked. We received this in February and at first approach, neither ears nor brain nor sleep-sensors were particularly engaged by its empty-seeming surface, but today this album is just right; a clouded-up fogfest of supreme fugginess which leaves the listener adrift in a supremely ambiguous zone for over 20 minutes and hence meets all the requirements of unsettling music in the “dark ambient” genre. Lull is Mick Harris of Scorn, whose 1990s ambient texturising I always enjoyed when I was immersed in the field where every other record was mastered by James Plotkin, and the Isolationism compilation was my touchstone. Beta Cloud is Carl Pace, the American musician whose Lunar Monograph from a few years ago sounds intriguing. Together this pair made the original Circadian Rhythm Disturbance and released it as a three-incher in 2008; now here it is again in full, along with an Andrew Liles remix of same. Liles transforms the original completely, filling it out with horrifying explosions, scalding jet aircraft engines, sinister crackling fuzz and many other unpleasant incidents, completely undermining the menacing yet strangely soothing mood of the original near-blank murkoid statement. If we compare the two, I suppose Lull / Beta Cloud ask interesting questions about the nature and effects of insomnia, while it seems Liles is hell-bent on contributing to or even exacerbating the condition.

Got another bundle of psych-revival music from Dave Schmidt in late February 2012. Electric Moon‘s The Doomsday Machine (NASONI RECORDS 118) was not in fact released on his Sulatron-Records label, but Schmidt features as a main player of this band in his Sula Bassana guise. Throughout, muscular and dense psych-rock music in the Spacemen 3 vein. We’re warned that The Doomsday Machine is “enveloped by a gloomy atmosphere”, which may be true, but to me it’s the kind of energised and flailing gloom as typified by certain favourite apocalyptic songs of King Crimson, Andromeda, or Second Hand when they made ‘The World Will End Yesterday’ or Death May Be Your Santa Claus. The album’s title track occupies all of side one and relentlessly chugs away in a minor key with its thick, clotted sound. The drumming summons an army of skeletons, the throats of the vocalists are stuffed with palpable despair, and the wah-wah guitars in particular produce an inhuman screaming sound that is highly appealing. The rest of the album may not be as crushingly heavy as that supreme downer of an opener, but there are highlights like ‘Spaceman’, a strong contender for matching Richard Pinhas’s soaring sci-fi guitar longform excursions, and ‘Stardust Service’ which ought to bring tears to the eyes of fans of the early Pink Floyd. Ulli Mahn’s overwrought artworks are an integral part of the release, and Electric Moon have made it their personal project to reinterpret these elaborate paintings in music, thus also forging a link with the past (the painter is the father of band member Komet Lulu). All of Schmidt’s projects and releases may stand accused of having both feet firmly cemented into “retro” genres, but he and his bands do it with such conviction and pleasure that I for one cannot resist. Available as a CD and a double-LP with extras.

Sun Dogs


Creditable set of instrumental guitar-and-synth rock tunes from UK combo Feorm on what appears to be their debut release (FEN TIGER FENT01CD). Each four or five-minute piece feels like an episode of compressed jamming rather than a composed tune, and while no memorable melodies are emerging from their efforts as yet, they have a clean and distinctive sound, fit well around each other and leave sufficient space for mutual utterances, and manage to arrive at some quite pleasing results thereby. The press release treads carefully around the usual grab-bag of comparison points, which include progressive rock, Krautrock, punk rock and even post-rock (if anyone remembers much about bands like Tortoise and LaBradford), but Feorm are a bit too lovably English to approach any of the heights of excess and grandeur implied by that list, and it’ll take a few more years of seasoned playing before they could deliver anything approaching ‘Dark Star’ or ‘Careful with that axe Eugene’. Indeed their Englishness is such that the label are making much of the fact that the LP was rehearsed and recorded in a barn in rural Norfolk. Much promise here, in between the ambling noodly passages; let’s hope they cut loose and rock a bit louder and harder on their next release.

To my mind, Electric Moon are doing many of the things Feorm wish they could do, even though they are a rampantly eclectic band who self-consciously imitate psych, prog and kraut with relish and without shame, like most of the bands on Sulatron. Flaming Lake (SULATRON RECORDS ST CD-R 013) gives the band four long and sprawling tracks to spread their shimmering, acid-strewn wings and the trio of Alex, Sula Bassana and Komet Lulu wallow in psychedelic, bass-heavy swirlings like titanic cosmic hogs. Not a synth in sight, and all the groovy rich and full-on sounds throb forth from guitar and bass thanks to a generous board of effects pedals, including the ‘electric stullenbox’ which must surely be desired by every axeman who ever stumbled into a guitar shop in Denmark Street. Note also how the cover design goes directly back to the Alphonse Mucha and Art Nouveau motifs which influenced much psychedelic poster art in the first place. Such is my desire to become engulfed in this lake of fire, I’m currently being kitted out with a new fireproof scuba-diving suit.

From late August, another package from Robert Pepper of PAS Records in Brooklyn. Experi-MENTAL Compilation 2 (PAS RECORDS 012) is a joint release with the Alrealon label in the UK, and presents thirteen bands drawn from both labels and the Zeromoon label to boot. From the latter, we have the very fine Blue Sausage Infant and Violet, but from elsewhere there’s Carey Burtt, Richard Lainhart, Fester, Invisible Hand, The Expanding Man, Black Saturn and more. The comp refuses to follow any given “theme”, and it’s a curious mix of aggressive noise, wayward acoustic improvisation, mellow songs, ambient droning, complex synth electronica, electronic music with beats, melodic synth pop, and sullen inert music. It was produced in conjunction with a music festival of the same name in 2011.

Slicing Grandpa is one of the oddest names for a band we’ve stumbled over in recent weeks. I wish I could figure out who sent me The Abstracticator (PHASE! PHR 80), a 30-minute CDR on a Greek label, which is a winning slab of lo-fi rock punk noise delivered with admirable looseness and laissez-faire by this Seattle based duo, who started out playing in 1993 in New York state. Danger, murk and menace are their meat and drink, and they slip in and out of playing this brilliantly inane rock drivel like idiot-savants, creating sudden lulls to deliver eccentric vocal and percussion episodes. This interminable grunt might have been recorded at the wrong end of a vacant warehouse, or performed at a live gig at 3am, or both; it’s about as rough quality as you can get without resorting to taping over used cassettes (maybe they did that too), and part of any sense of coherence that spins off this shouty, grunged-up racket is down to the primitive stop-start edits as much as the primitive stop-start playing. Like Borbetomagus, it seems the band never lower themselves by deigning to “practice” their music more than is needed, which is about once a year. Good for them! Who knows, the grandpa they’re slicing up could be the decaying corpse of rock music itself. 60 copies only, nifty screenprinted cover.

As MB, Maurizio Bianchi apparently used to make extreme noise records in the 1980s, not one of which has graced my listening parlour as yet. Now he doesn’t do that any more, and Apokalypsis XXIII (NITKIE PATCH SIX) is a considered and refined set of electro-acoustic compositional work with a biblical theme. The texts on the back seem to be cut-ups of verses from the bible, vaguely matching up to what I regard as the slightly scrambled nature of the music, which pours out of the record like four flavours of jam mixed up with tins of treacle. In vain does the ear grasp for clear patterns or repetitions, and we’re soon lost in the corridors of highly-processed digital abstractions. Despite the imagery of flames and the implied end-of-the-world theme of the title, the music studiously avoids violence and tumult; instead, it emphasises the mysteriousness and opacity of the Revelations of St John the Divine, and may intend to convey the nature of that mystic’s isolated life on the island of Patmos. This one arrived here 25 May 2011.