Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Young Widows - "Old Wounds" CD

Louisville has a thriving music scene, and Young Widows are a product of that particularly fertile ground. Consisting of former members of several punk and hardcore groups, Young Widows create a harsh, noisy, and angular post-punk sound that's akin to acts like the Melvins or Jesus Lizard. Evan Patterson's throat-scraping vocals wail and teeter just to the south of sanity, while the group behind him produce an energetic and feisty set of thunderous rock grooves with an element of ramshackle abandon. 'The Guitar' lets up with a bit of storytelling amidst the chaos, but then it's back to the crushingly dense din of 'Lucky And Hardheaded'. Kurt Ballou's engineering and mixing sounds a lot like Steve Albini's trademark -- dry and raw, and this only helps to present Young Widows as a road-weary but tight noise/rock unit for fans of the old 90's Amphetamine Reptile or Touch & Go days. Righteous. (Temporary Residence)

Young Widows site

Megadeth - "Anthology: Set The World Afire" 2xCD

Surviving for almost 25 years now, ex-Metallica axeman Dave Mustaine has seen his share of ups and downs. This double-CD assembles a reasonably concise history of Megadeth's life and times, from the very early thrash/speed metal of stuff like 'Rattlehead' to the heavier and more melodic anthems like 'Peace Sells', with it's instantly recognizable bassline. And though I've never much followed the band's work through the years, it's remarkable how well this stuff has aged. 'Anarchy In The U.K.' does the Sex Pistols justice, and songs like 'Set The World Afire' are as thick, taut, and intense as can be. Megadeth were definitely not of the party-metal ilk, no sir. The blatant social critiques of songs like 'Sweating Bullets' show an awareness that was/is rare among Megadeth's peers, and it all serves to prove that Megadeth were leaders of their time, rather than followers. There are 35 songs here, too, so it's a big bang for your buck. Go geddit, I say. (major label)

Megadeth website

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

various artists - "Godhead - Non-Stop Ride" CD

On this 2004 release, Jason Miller of nth-generation industrial rockers Godhead mixes together (and that's putting it loosely) a selection of mostly re-hashed cuts from the catalog of recycling masters Cleocraptra Records. It's not so much a showcase of the artists' top songs, but more-or-less a commercial/promo for Cleo's waning back catalogue of covers albums and licensees. A solid (if unremarkable) track by Funker Vogt ('Narayan') opens things with aplomb, but what follows shortly thereafter is a subpar effort by the normally talented Haujobb ('Smack My Bitch Up' - yes, that one), who did this track for quick cash, I'm convinced, as it seems to be a throwaway that displays none of the complexity and texture that Mr. Meier (cheers, Daniel!) is capable of. Beyond that, there's a lot of very average songs by X Marks The Pedwalk ('I See You'), VNV Nation's technofied Front 242 cover ('DMSO'), a brief snippet of the mighty Pig's 'Rope', a short edit of Ogre and Mark Walk's cover of Madonna's 'Borderline', 80's one-hit wonders Sigue Sigue Sputnik doing KMFDM's 'Virus', some Razed In Black, Pigface, Die Krupps, etc. You get the picture. The whole glorious mess ends with Godhead themselves covering 3 classic 80's goth-rock staples, with some pretty horrendous results. 'Bela Lugosi's Dead', 'Fascination Street', and 'This Corrosion' are rendered pale shadows (appropriate, I suppose) of their former glory. Wow. I am really seriously disappointed. (Cleopatra)

Godhead site

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Susanna - "Flower Of Evil" CD

Norwegian pianist/vocalist Susanna Karolina Wallumrød has, with only her second solo album, re-interpreted a series of unlikely rock songs as beautifully melancholic modern folk/torch tracks. Songs by Thin Lizzy, ('Jailbreak'), Sandy Denny ('Who Knows Where The Time Goes'), Lou Reed ('Vicious'), Nico ('Janitor Of Lunacy'), Black Sabbath ('Changes'), Tom Petty ('Don't Come Around Here No More'), Abba ('Lay All Your Love On Me') and others are transformed into near-mystical, intimate, and sublimely personal laments. Wallumrød's crystalline, sparse vocals are remarkably pure and natural, sounding like a cross between Cat Power, P.J. Harvey, and Marketa Irglova (of the 'Once' soundtrack). Louisville's own Will Oldham himself lends his guest vocals to 2 songs here, and finds himself covered as well ('Joy And Jubilee'). His duet with Susanna, on Prince's 'Without You', is either one of his finest, most heart-rending performances ever, or one his most overdramatic. I still can't decide which. Nonetheless, it's something to behold. Susanna's 2 originals here are lonely, understated, and just beautiful in a stark, unadorned way. An incredible singer and one to chase down, for sure. (Rune Grammofon)

Susanna's website

Here's a promo video for Susanna's melancholic rendition of Joy Division's classic 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Save The Polar Bear

A harrowing look at one of our planet's most remarkable and iconic species...

For more info and to sign the petition, visit:

Save The Polar

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Primal Scream - "Dirty Hits" CD

Nobody would accuse Bobby Gillespie of being a great songwriter, as evidenced by this rather uneven collection of singles spanning (most of) his group's career. But he's certainly never been afraid to experiment and take his music into ever-evolving directions, and to varying degrees of success. Starting with the late-80's era Manchester-fop-dance of 'Loaded' and the neo-60's Rolling Stones impersonations of 'Movin' On Up', Gillespie's certainly been influenced by drug culture. The Orb remix of 'Higher Than The Sun' is positively lethargic (rather than lysergic), before 'Rocks' brings on some true swagger. '(I'm Gonna) Cry Myself Blind' harkens back to Gillespie's days in the Jesus & Mary Chain, with it's simple, almost pastoral sad bastard vibe. 'Kowalski', precisely halfway through the disc, is where the real forward movement begins. It's a rough cut-dub that's a signal of the deconstruction that would soon follow.
Amping it up, the songs from the incredible (and landmark) 'XTMNTR' CD of 2000 take control. 'Swastika Eyes' is a blistering, scathing techno-dub attack, and 'Kill All Hippies' is pure funk laced with bitter cynicism and vitriol with it's memorable refrain of 'You've got the money, I've got the soul'. 'Shoot Speed/Kill Light' is a noise-infested shoegazer-punk snarl, like a modern-day Suicide meets My Bloody Valentine - believable as MBV's Kevin Shields produced this one. 'Miss Lucifer' is another techno-terror track that could be the Stooges and Suicide rolled into a modern electronica blender. 'Some Velvet Morning' electrifies the great Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra gem, and closing it all out, 'Autobahn 66' is a pleasant electro-pop homage to Kraftwerk. Final verdict? First half bleah, second half prime. Invest in a copy of 'XTRMNTR' and get most of the essentials right there. (Astralwerks US)

Primal Scream website

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Old Joy" (director: Kelly Reichardt)

This recent low-key indie release stars Daniel London (as Mark) and Will Oldham (as Kurt) as two old chums who decide to head out to the mountains in Oregon for a restful escape from their stressful city lives. With Mark's dog Lucy in tow, they retreat to an isolated area with hot springs, where they camp out, catch up on old times, talk about life, drink beer and smoke, and ruminate on the state of things. Both men seem tense at times, but ultimately this open-ended look at how things change is as much an appreciation/love letter to the wilderness as it is about the characters, and their growing distance in the 'civilized' world. It's an almost Herzog-like set of natural visuals accompanying a storyline that seems almost incidental. A lovely little film, though probably not for everyone. As a musical side-note, Oldham does not contribute any music, but the lovely soundtrack here is performed by Yo La Tengo.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ween - "At The Cat's Cradle, 1992" CD+DVD

Ween, to the novice, could easily come across as sophomoric, juvenile, and maybe even unprofessional. But to those who look a little deeper, these goofball virtuosos are fearlessly professional risk-takers and unlikely pop-stars with a voracious musical appetite, and Dean and Gene could easily be successful at any kind of music. They have been musical chameleons for many years, and their mastery of all kinds of sounds is inspiring and truly 'punk rock'. They are reckless and cheeky, and always surprising and fun.
'At The Cat's Cradle' is a very early live show (soundboard, luckily), from their days as a duo-with-a-drum-machine. If Ween are, umm, 'refined' master-pranksters nowadays, songs like the opening 'Big Jilm', are raw and jammy with mid-song dialogues and some improvised silliness. Ween's any-genre predilection encompasses weirdo pop, weirdo funk, weirdo post-punk, and something else that resembles classic rock. 'Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)' is a particularly theatrical, dramatic take/parody/homage to big stadium rock, and a standout that culminates in some messed-up sampling at the tail-end. 'Mango Woman' is like a rasta Butthole Surfers - and yet somehow getting sentimental and sweet in a stoned-out way. 'El Camino' borrows a little from 'White Rabbit', and the vitriolic 'You Fucked Up' is a dirty rock outburst (in a wonderfully primal fashion). 'Buckingham Green' is a mellow, almost folksy ballad that ends up spacing out with some wicked guitar soloing. The attached DVD features some bootleggy footage of the boys having fun on-stage and during a radio interview. Inessential, but more than watchable, especially for single-camera footage.
Ween are always adept at tackling various styles and moods, and even in these very early days, their comprehensive knowledge and love for music is evident. And though this live set can be a bit draggy in spots, there's plenty of Ween-genius (Weenius?) to go around. (MVD Audio)

Ween site

Best Friends Animal Society DogTown tour

This is a great little video tour of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary's famous DogTown (as featured on the successful National Geographic Channel TV series), featuring founding member Michael Mountain...a wonderful glimpse into the tireless and beautiful work done by this organization. If you're ever near Kanab, Utah (in-between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, roughly), do yourself a favor and volunteer at Best Friends, for the animals (and for yourself). It was a great experience I'll never forget, and one that I hope to repeat again someday!

Visit Best Friends website for news, updates, photos, and more info.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy New Beer!

Ah, time again for my monthly beer report. This time we have some spicy holiday goodness...kinda. One astounding and creative brew that nearly transcends the word 'beer', and some others that turn in respectable tastes. Again, the scale goes a little like this: 5 = masterful, 4 = exceptional, 3 = average, 2 = borderline waste of money, 1 = abomination.

DOGFISH HEAD - Theobroma (Delaware, USA) - 5

Unusual scent - like something almost medieval. And alas! This is based on a recipe found at ruins in Honduras, and reputedly the earliest use of cocoa in an alcoholic beverage - used to celebrate those ancient 'good times', perhaps? Anyhow, history aside, 'Theobroma' has a very strong, hearty, smooth, and up-front sweet taste (the cocoa and honey come through), with a tinge of spice (annatto?). Then the lingering flavor is kind of spicy (chilies are used here, too). There's a prominent alcoholic suggestion (this one is strong at 9%). One of the most unusual and delightful brews I've had in some time.

REDHOOK - ESB Original Ale (New Hampshire, USA) - 3

Strong and hearty, and a light golden ale - kinda sweet and malty but not overbearingly so. Easygoing and simple, with nothing flashy or unusual. Enjoyable enough, but not something all that unique or notable.

GOOSE ISLAND- Mild Winter (Chicago, USA) - 3

A nice amber ale with a mild amount of spice and hoppiness, nicely balancing the two in harmony/tandem. A well-done brew.

ATLANTIC BREWING CO. - Mount Desert Island Ginger (Bar Harbor/Portland ME, USA) - 2

The first striking feature is the cloudy golden appearance and spicy/fruity scent. Initial taste heralds an instant snap of ginger, but it's not overpowering. In fact, this is more like a ginger ale (hahah!), easy on the palate and stomach. However, maybe a little too sweet for my taste.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Iceberg Slim - "Reflections" CD

Ah, reflections. But in this case, they're not of the sensitive, lovey kind. These reflections are straight from a life of crime and pimpin'. Iceberg Slim (aka Robert Beck) was a (literal and literary) genius. He lived quite a storied life, rising from poverty to become the leading author of 'urban' fiction in the 60's and 70's. His past life as a real pimp gave him a wealth of tales and experiences to draw from. His books (and this CD) have been major inspirations and influences on the rap scene, and some really major artists (Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Dave Chappelle) have professed allegiance to the 'Iceberg'. 'Reflections', his only audio poetry release, first arrived in 1976, and has been reissued a couple of times since then (notably once in the 90's on Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin's Infinite Zero imprint).

Iceberg was a natural showman, and his smooth, confident, and authoritative voice here anticipates the future hip-hop scene, with his sly rhymes and cadences. These tales aren't for kids - plenty of references to whores, drugs, lurid sex, deceit, and treachery. But he does it always with an abundance of style and charisma, so it's a pleasure to listen to. Whether or not these are real-life stories is a moot point. Slim creates vivid scenes with his words, like all great writers, and that, to me, proves to me that Iceberg was indeed a legend in his time.

A film adaption of Iceberg's book 'Mama's Black Widow' is reportedly in the works, featuring pop star Rihanna, Mos Def, Anthony Anderson, and Macy Gray, among others.
(Uproar Entertainment)

more info on Iceberg and 'Reflections'

Yahowa 13 - "Sonic Portation" CD

Born of a sixties-era religious group called the Source Family, and led by the enigmatic Father Yod, the Ya Ho Wa 13 collective produced a series of privately-released vinyl LPs of wild psychedelic improvisational music from 1973 to 1975. Through the years, these records became highly sought-after collectibles, and their influence has gone on the breed some of the wilder out-there psyche/noise/freak folk sounds of today.
Reforming with all 3 of the former members (sadly, Father Yod passed away in 1975), and joined by Smashing Pumpkins associate Kerry Brown (who mixed this), Yahowa 13 return after a many-year absence with this 35-minute set of freeform space jams. This is tribal/raga/mantric music for those seeking higher planes of consciousness. Yahowa 13's uninhibited blending of guitars, bass, drums, and chant isn't unique, but it recalls everything from Eastern meditational sound to the tribal rock of Amon Duul. It's a joyous noise, and a lovely din to lose yourself inside of. I say turn it up loud, close your eyes, and feel the divinity of sound itself. (Prophase Music)

info on the Source family

info on the Father Yod LPs

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Watain - "Casus Luciferi" CD

This is a remastered reissue of Swedish black metal act Watain's second album, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the formation of this formidable band of marauders. It all begins with the maelstrom of 'Devil's Blood' - a fiery blast furnace of furious rhythms and screaming guitars. Vocalist Erik Danielsson's agonized wails are relegated more to the back of the mix, which is fine, making them seem almost more ghostly and part of the wall of noise. Watain's sheer power, speed and aggression take the example set by bands like Emperor or Mayhem and add the crisp production that bands like Slayer harness so well. It's a balanced mix of extreme anger and misanthropy that one can't help but feel - forceful and brutal. Over the course of 9 tracks, the swelling, almost orchestral chaos is numbing, and all-consuming. Watain's latest work, 'Sworn To The Dark', is an even better and and more articulate depiction of modern black metal, but this reissue certainly has the chops, proving that Watain are rightful heirs to the crown. (Season Of Mist)

Temple Of Watain

Grails - "Doomsayer's Holiday" CD

Portland heavy-doom instrumental rock unit Grails take influence from such wildly unusual sources as hash-soaked psychedelia, post-Black Sabbath metal, Eastern instrumentation, and out-jazz. On 'Doomsayer's Holiday', this coalesces into a blazing landscape of exotic jams (the Indian/Irish-accented sludge metal of 'Reincarnation Blues'), weird, alien textures, and stoned-out bliss, all with a richly cinematic flair. It's as if Grails are scoring an epic film by Alejandro Jodorowsky. The sweeping, chiming sadness of 'The Natural Man' is only a precursor to the Sun Ra-like space-jazz-noise of 'Immediate Mate'. 'X-Contaminators' would serve well as a soundtrack to a Dario Argento horror film, and the Pink Floyd-ian 'Acid Rain' closes it all out. A major release that will appeal to both metal heads and avante-leaning space travelers alike. (Temporary Residence)

Grails website

Clutch - "Full Fathom Five - Audio Field Recordings 2007-2008" CD

Survivors of the 90's alt.rock/metal explosion, Mayland's Clutch have seen their share of ups and downs. Their gigging around the DC area and their sheer perseverance has rewarded them with a 15-year career, and a fair share of fans who've followed the band through the major label days and beyond. This live album, recorded through 4 gigs around the US and Australia, features some big and mean rock - raw and ugly as it should be. Imagine a melding of funky groove metal (think Faith No More, maybe) with heavy post-Sabbath blues riff-rock. It's not elegant or reserved, but more of a sweat-and-spittle sorta thang, well-suited for overloading PAs at clubs and bars. On the blues tip, 'Electric Worry' takes cues from Mississippi Fred McDowell (and also shares a posthumous co-writing credit with), and is among the more successful songs here. The sound is crisp, and the band at the top of their game. Preach on, brothers. (Weathermaker Music)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

John Gregorius - "Heaven And Earth" CD

Guitarist/composer Gregorius' debut solo work is a lovely, if unassuming set of mostly ambient guitarscapes and gentle, breezily pastoral music. 'Heaven And Earth' is a positive and relaxing collection of songs (both acoustic and ambient) that float and recede into the background, setting a quiet and mellow kind of mood. Expect no dark overtones or foreboding textures here, as these songs evoke a more balanced and harmonious side of existence - natural and unhampered by modern society's stresses and complications. Gregorius' finger-picked guitars (as in the shimmering 'Follow Me') are beautiful and really quite relaxing. A nice pick-me-up after a long, trying day. (Spotted Peccary Music)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Artridge - "Butterfly Wing Theory- Part 1 (Think Tank)" CD

This duo (multi-instrumentalists Christoph Mainz and Robin Pleil)'s second CD of highly visual soundtracks combines exotic live instrumentation with electronic sound design and programming. It gels into a cohesive whole, fortunately. 'Charcoal' takes on a moody rock structure, and proto-industrial dance sounds find their way into the booming rhythmics of 'Knitfitfoamfix', which is swirled by percolating sequences. 'Jellyfish' is a solemn and reflective piece - sounding very urban and nocturnal. 'Polygraph' seems almost prog/jazz in feel, but still coming from a mysterious, shadowy origin. If you're looking for a solid late-night set of background tunes, 'Butterfly Wing Theory' will suffice quite well, bringing life to the darker corners of your room. (Artridge)/Interlink

Artridge site

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Plastic Crimewave Sound - "Plastic Crimewave Sound" CD

Taking cues from 60's-era psychedelic/garage rock as well as freaky Japanoise, Steve Krakow (aka Plastic Crimewave) and friends create far-out spacerock gems complete with out-of-control guitar squalls and primitive rhythms. '(I Am) Planet Crushing' is a grungy proto-punk number, while 'Dead Island Boogie' sounds like a gigantic noise/psyche meltdown improv. 'Shockwave Rider' is a hellacious wall of feedback and driving bass/drums ala Chrome, with almost incantational vocals. The final cut, 'The Pasture', comes in 3 parts, and it slows things down a bit to a more meditational, almost Eastern-style mantra. Lovely stuff for heads so inclined to wander the outer perimeters of rock. (Prophase Music)

Plastic Crimewave site

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Forrest J. Ackerman 1916-2008

Forrest J. Ackerman, editor/publisher of the legendary "Famous Monsters Of Filmland" magazine, and celebrated horror/sci-fi (he coined the term 'sci-fi') author and overgrown fan-boy (he reputedly owned one of the most comprehensive collections of horror/monster memorabilia in the world), passed away Thursday, December 4, 2008. He was 92. I was a huge fan of his magazine (subscribed for many years in my childhood/adolescence) and 'Forry' was an inspiration to many other horror film fans. He counts names like Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, John Landis, and countless others, as his fans. (above photo by Alan Light)

Famous Monsters Online magazine

A superb historical article can be read here.

Pete M. Wyer - "Stories From The City At Night" CD

Brighton, UK-based composer/sound designer Wyer here creates a series of vivid and cinematic spoken-text tracks, accompanied by lush and filmic atmospheric backdrops. Wyer's use of field recordings provides a real-life and dirty vibe for his otherwise well-orchestrated mini-soundtracks. Each song here is a part of a puzzle, or possibly an independent vignette - dissecting life within New York City. It's all done in a romantic and stylish, almost beat-poetry fashion. From the gruff and resonant voice of Wally Burr (on the 18-minute opener 'Rain At Night') to the smoky jazz/lounge vibes of 'Somebody', with Carol Lipnik. 'Dina's Diner' is a cool beat-jazz poetry piece with Caryn Havlik's voice and Matthew Shipp's piano, among others. 'Night Ride By Subway Car' is a more ominous bit of late-night (near-industrial) ambiance, with words by Thirsty Ear label-head Peter Gordon. 'Pray For Me' features award-winning actress Jenny Agutter on a sorrowful and dramatic goodbye, and 'Imprint' ends it all with a brief and hopeful whistle. A tasteful and artful set of urban soundtracks that are well worth a listen. (Thirsty Ear)

Pete M. Wyer site

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Repo! The Genetic Opera"

Thought I'd give some space/time to helping promote this new horror/sci-fi/musical with some rather interesting musical ties. It's playing in select cities (not national distribution as yet), but watch for it on DVD in the coming months. The film features Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, Rob Zombie's movies), Paris Hilton, Ogre (of Skinny Puppy), Sarah Brightman, Anthony Stewart-Head (of Buffy fame), and others. It's directed by Darren Bousman, who's probably best-known for directing several of the 'Saw' movies. The soundtrack includes contributions from folks like Eric Powell (of 16Volt), Joseph Bishara (Drown), Poe, Rich Patrick (Filter), Melora Creager (Rasputina), and members of bands like Jane's Addiction, Bauhaus/Love & Rockets, Slipknot, Guns 'N Roses, Rob Zombie's band, and others.

official website with more info

And here's the official theatrical trailer:

"Blood Harvest" (director: Bill Rebane)

This 1987 low-budget slasher/horror flick is notable really only for starring the inimitable Tiny Tim (as the weirdo clown-dressing brother Mervo who sings his odd little songs throughout the film), as well as an early appearance by Peter Krause, who would, years later, go on to play Nate on the superb HBO series 'Six Feet Under'.
Otherwise, there's not a lot to go on. Itonia Salchek plays Jill, a lovely young lady who returns to her small hometown only to find her parents missing. Her creepy childhood friend (and his freaky aforementioned brother) appears, and makes the usual advances on her while her boyfriend (Krause) goes missing, too. Things get hairy for Jill, culminating in a finale that's pretty typical of 80's slashers. Nothing extraordinary as far as blood/gore goes (it's pretty mild, really), and the nubile Salchek appears topless a few times, but really, this film would barely garner an 'R' rating these days. Nah.

"The House Of The Rising Punk" DVD (director: Christian Dreher)

This 1998 documentary chronicles the early-mid 70's New York pre-punk music scene, told via a series of firsthand accounts from some of the great artists who helped to spawn it (Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell, Jim Jarmusch, Alan Vega, Legs McNeil, etc.). Of course, this tale involves Hilly Kristal and his Bowery club, CBGB's, which gave these artists and others (Blondie, Talking Heads, Television, Suicide, Ramones, New York Dolls, Wayne/Jayne County, Stooges, etc.) a place to play and grow. 'Rising Punk' is brief (60 minutes), with no extra features, but it doesn't need more. There are tons of rare photos and film clips to illustrate the importance and relevance of New York's CBGB's scene, and it's relation to the 'punk' explosion in general. An excellent and informative look at a counterculture that was (at the time) untainted by commercial pressures or corporate marketing. Recommended for anyone wondering about the genesis of punk rock and alternative music in general. (ABC Entertainment via MVD Visual)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Die Warzau - "Vinyl88" CD

Who would've thought that the finest electronic-rock (aka 'industrial') album in recent years would come from an almost-forgotten duo of producers/artists who've only released 2 albums in 14 years?
Chicago's Die Warzau, consisting of programmer Van Christie and vocalist Jim Marcus here unleash a torrent of classic heavy funk-laced electro-stompers with finesse and a keen socio-political conscience.
'Vinyl88' is a kind of 'best of' set, but these mostly-90's-era dancefloor greats are remixed and remade, and wow, do they smoke! Beginning with the previously download-only 'Insect', which has some of the most stunning production I've heard on a track of this nature in many a year (this one is great to work out/test speakers with), Christie and Marcus prove they have the songwriting chops as well as production skills to spare (a necessity in this genre) . I can't forget to mention that 'Insect', while being ultra-aggressive and bruisingly heavy from start to finish, has a killer melody underlying it all - a superb and effective combination.
The moldy oldie 'Land Of The Free', which was written in the late 80's, is here transformed into a thunderous and fearsome dance beast, while an obscure KMFDM remix of 'All Good Girls' (surely the band's melodic tour-de-force) is welcome, and certainly a must-hear. New track 'Glare' is a pop-oriented piece with accents of trip-hop and old jazz (check the wild and scratchy vinyl brass solo in the middle). The groovy remake of 'Funkopolis' forces you to shake that booty, and 'Kleen', another new track, is one of the smartest and catchiest slices of electronic pop you're likely to hear anytime soon. 'Smackdown' (reprised from an old vinyl-only 12") includes vocals by the always classy and stylish Scot Chris Connelly (of Revolting Cocks and solo fame). And speaking of guest vocals, how about George Clinton himself on the album's closer, 'Hitler's Brain'? Die Warzau 2008, where have you been? A mammoth, massive, and unmistakeable success. (Rosehip/Pulseblack Records)

Die Warzau website

Monday, December 1, 2008

Deerhunter - "Microcastles / Weird Era Cont." 2xCD

Atlanta 4-piece Deerhunter, led by the prolific Bradford Cox, drop their second full-length here, and it's surprisingly their most commercial offering to date. Taking pieces of shoegaze, sixties pop, weird folk, and indie rock, Cox and co. concoct a catchy yet hallucinogenic collection of homespun recordings with melody and woozy affection. 'Activa' is a soft, narcotic lullaby, with 'Nothing Ever Happened' (being the first single) being a driving rock song. This sums up the diversity of 'Microcastles', and like their friends in Animal Collective, there's something for everyone here. Nice pop songwriting and out-there sounds congeal like My Bloody Valentine meeting the Beach Boys and then being produced by someone from Pavement. I like this one a lot. And there's a second disc attached, titled 'Weird Era Cont.', featuring 13 more tracks of 'ambient garage punk' (as described by Cox himself). Here flow more textural soundscapes, happy singalongs, and everything in-between. 'Weird Era' seems more raw and intimate than 'Microcastles', and may well be demos or home recordings. Regardless, there are some lovely tunes here, and 'Microcastles/Weird Era Cont.' is more than a worthy deal. (Kranky)

Deerhunter site

Bradford's blog (with many free demos/singles)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sky Cries Mary - "Small Town" video

My review's already been done here, but since they're not getting major exposure elsewhere (being independent artists), I hope you'll give this lovely song/video a try...

Sky Cries Mary website

Pigface - "Free For All" DVD (dir: Clint Sieloff)

Being a longtime fan & longtime-ago Invisible/Pigface Field Rep myself, I've seen (and heard) my fair share of Pigface shows. I had sort of lost interest over the years as releases became far too redundant (remixes of remixes of remasterings, re-hashings, bleeding 'Suck' dry, etc.). Anyhow, this release makes me like the 'new' group more, believe it or not.
Their earlier videos/DVDs were chiefly live footage, but this one reveals the numerous behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations behind touring - with a wide array of people from all over the world, and in the same bus. It's engrossing, interesting, and a fascinating look at what life was like for this assemblage (instigator Atkins, Charles Levi (Thrill Kill Kult), Hanin Elias (Atari Teenage Riot), En Esch (KMFDM/Slick Idiot), Lee Frazier (Sheep On Drugs), Kryztoff (Bile), Lacey Conner (Nocturne), Curse Mackey (Evil Mothers/Grim Faeries), the Enigma (Jim Rose Circus Sideshow), and the many others who accompanied the band on stage and off.
From inter-band arguments to firings, hirings, bus troubles, ego-clashes, rabid (and naked) fans, club issues, crew issues, disagreements, sword swallowing, fire-eating, broken spines, new friendships, and, in-between it all, some fun music, 'Free For All' tells all. The interviews are candid and honest, and the whole documentary flows well. To director Clint Seiloff, nice work. And to Atkins/Invisible/Pigface, thanks for the years of interesting (if not always particularly memorable) music. (Invisible/Underground Inc/MVD Visual)

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Eerie Von's Spidercider "That's All There Is" CD

Ah, this is where it all comes together for former Samhain/Danzig member (and Misfits photographer/roadie) Eerie Von. This album, originally released in 2006, is a heavy rock album with a spooky singalong punk aesthetic. It's impressive that Eerie wrote, performed, and produced this himself, as it sounds like a full-on live band. He can write some damned catchy tunes, and the inspiration from his previous bands is detectable perhaps, but 'Spidercider' certainly isn't ripping off anything. In fact, songs like 'Hey Louisa' owe as much to the Ramones as anything else - classic rapidfire punk with pop-song melodics. Solid work, and worthy of your attention if these references are your thang, mang. (Ghastly Records)

Eerie Von's site

Monday, November 24, 2008

Eerie Von - "Bad Dream No. 13" CD

Samhain/Danzig drummer/bassist Eerie Von's 2000 solo project is a selection of dark gothic-blues songs that remind of a lower-fi Danzig in spots ('Downontheslab', in particular). Eschewing the use of computers, every sound and word on 'Bad Dream No.13' is Eerie, likely recorded on just a 4-track. The simple arrangements of guitar, drum programs, and vocals are spare and unforgiving, exposing Eerie's limited vocal capacity and the underdeveloped songs. On the plus side, I can easily hear these songs transformed with better production into heavy rock anthems, but as they are here, this is basically some rough demos of what could have been. For fans of Danzig's less metallic songs, 'Bad Dream No.13' may be a curious side-note. (Ghastly Records)

Eerie Von website

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rosemary's Babies - "Talking To The Dead" CD

Before he was drumming for Samhain and playing bass in Danzig, Eerie Von played with New Jersey punkers Rosemary's Babies. This 25-song, 38-minute set collects most (if not all) of the band's work, and it's really quite good. This is catchy hardcore punk, complete with rampant anti-social tendencies. 'Sex Maniac' and 'I Say Yes' get socio-political in fun, aggressive ways, and the furious blur of speedy riffs and machine-gun bursts from vocalist J.R. are as intense and snarling as anyone before or since. Kick-ass, raw, real, and original punk from the silver era (1982-83). Essential for fans and collectors. (Ghastly Records)

Eerie Von website

The Damage Manual "The Damage Manual" DVD

When Martin Atkins enlisted the considerable talents (not to mention pedigrees) of Jah Wobble (PIL), Geordie Walker (Killing Joke), and Chris Connelly for his Damage Manual project, the result was a startlingly powerful EP. What followed was a lesser LP, then a slew of remixes, dub versions, and recycled releases that really put some tarnish on this landmark post-punk 'band''s "public image".
This video is a collection of Atkins' handi-cam tapes from the original sessions. There's what seems like an endless array of in-studio footage, from raw takes, horsing around (leave the damned doorbell buzzer cam alone already!!), photo shoots, Geordie smoking, and unrecognizably muttered comments. Needless to say, regardless of anyone's involvement, this is a fairly tedious watch. Plenty of bored faces, people shuffling about, and unsteady camerawork. Granted, the couple of tracks that the band plays live in the studio are heavy and amazing (what an amazing collision of musicians), but overall this is one for the completists only, and much of it should've stayed in the vault. (Invisible Records /MVD Visual)

"Look Directly Into The Sun: China Pop 2007" compilation CD

Compiled by Martin Atkins during his extended stay in China, this 18-song set samples the revolutionary indie rock scene there as Atkins saw it. Starting with the raw post-punk sounds of Snapline's 'Close Your Cold Eyes', 'Look Directly...' includes other standouts from Caffe-In ('Mario And Peaches' is a fun pop-punk number), the moody and dynamic 'What More' from Subs, the early PIL-flavored 'Hang On The Box' by Shanghai, Voodoo Kungfu's wild and heavy 'Chian', which could almost be Seattle's old Blackouts if they met up with the Melvins - praise indeed! Rococo closes with their sparkly surf-pop of 'We Just Free'.
The vibe here is of early, pre-commercialized indie rock. There are plenty of flavors here, from straight-ahead rock to punk to electronic to rap, and it shows there's a burgeoning music scene in China that may go unnoticed in the West if not for recordings like this one. Kudos to Atkins for getting these folks some much-needed PR and attention outside of their own 'scene'. (Invisible China/Bloodshot Records)

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Punk Rock Karaoke" DVD+CD

A novelty item, for sure, but kinda fun in a throwaway sorta way. The CD is a solid covers disc, featuring various all-star guest vocalists (like Dicky from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio, Jim Lindberg of Pennywise, Dave King of Flogging Molly, and Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory(??)) covering classics by Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Dickies, Buzzcocks, Black Flag, Stiff Little Fingers (the awesome 'Suspect Device'), etc. Unnecessary, but amusing.
The DVD features these songs as videos, as well as a section of instrumental cuts with the lyrics so you can, theoretically, 'perform' these yourself in the comfort of your own TV room. Likely fun in a bar setting, with the all-star band (members of NOFX, Circle Jerks, Adolescents, Agent Orange, etc.) backing you up. On disc it's rendered reasonably feeble. Some additional footage of live audience members singing these songs is entertaining, with some solid performances (among the embarrassing), but overall this is a pretty lightweight and forgettable set. (MVD Visual)

PRK official site

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stars Of The Lid - Environmental Defense Fund commercial

A curious and pertinent ad featuring the tired (and beautiful) sounds of Stars Of The Lid...

Happy beer-giving!

Here they are, some more beer reviews...this month, they are rated on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being 'Shite, this is top!' and 1 being 'Just shite, period'.

MICHELOB - Porter (St. Louis, USA) - 2

Anheuser-Busch's Michelob imprint offers this 'craft' brew, and their opaque 'all malt' porter comes with strong burnt choco/coffee notes, but ultimately fails to deliver a character that differentiates it from other porters. Nah, there are better.

SAMUEL ADAMS - Hallertau Imperial Pilsner (Boston, USA) - 5

This tasty treat uses an abundance of premium Bavarian hops to create a rich and masterfully complex flavor explosion. Hopheads will rejoice, while those who don't appreciate more bitter brews will likely avoid this. Me? I think this one's a sure winner, so drink up (especially as this may be a limited seasonal beer).

GOOSE ISLAND - Nut Brown Ale (Chicago, USA) - 3

I'll admit to being a fan of brown ales, from the most common (Newcastle) to the most obscure (gimme some Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale anytime, if you can find it!). Goose Island's version is hearty and rich, as a good brown ale should be. It's got a semi-chocolatey/honey palate, and comes across as solid, if not unique or memorable. Decent enough, to be sure.

AVENTINUS - Wheat Doppelbock (Munchen, Germany) - 4

Pours a rich, fruity spiciness, with a large head. Tastes spicy, malty, and robust, almost smoky and ideal for a chilly winter's night. Has a distinctive alcoholic spike, as well (8.2% ABV). A very tasty and nuanced beer, and one to be enjoyed patiently.

Martin Atkins China Dub Soundsystem - "Made In China" CD

Drummer extraordinaire (and Invisible Records/Pigface founder) Atkins documented his 2007 trip to Beijing not only in photo/video form, but by recording this album (as well as compiling the 'Look Directly At The Sun' comp). For 'Made In China', he assembled a troupe of China's finest indie musicians and managed to record alongside them and produce/mix these 11 tracks - essentially a Chinese Pigface album. It's an entertaining inter-cultural mix, with traditional Chinese instruments and melodies accompanying Atkins' drumming and scratch-n-dub production. There's funky hip-hop ('China MC Brothers vs. Martin Atkins', 'Re:Load'), electronica ('Mostly Hulusi', featuring Shao Feng on the bagpipe-like hulusi instrument), traditional Tibetan-meets-industrial rock ('Tibetans vs. Dirty Girl'), cynical indie rock ('Yellow Cab', with Chen Xi of Snapline sounding not unlike Mark E. Smith of The Fall), and other odd creatures that co-exist peacefully. The wonderful 'Beijing Taxi' is my favorite, with super-huge drums, dub effects, Dave Wright of Not Breathing's electronics, and traditional Chinese female vocals. A great cultural melding and a fun listen. (Invisible China/Bloodshot Records)

Controlled Bleeding - "In Blind Embrace (Songs From The Shadows)" CD

Originally released in 1996, this obscure title from American experimental act Controlled Bleeding shows a darker, more ambient side of the unpredictable noise/jazz/industrial act. The bold and operatic vocals of Joe Papa grace the dramatic gothic opener, 'Tormentor's Song', which seems to symbolize strength and pride before the transitional 'Red Hands Waiting', which can be downloaded for free *here*. This is a more contemplative, subtle, and moody piece that features deeply-intoned vocals and hints at the group's unique jazz/industrial hybrid sound, though never quite falling into either camp. The transformational 'Scalding/Black Rain' begins with a brace of noise and disjointed loopiness that gives way to a distinctly different second part that again joins Papa's vocals with big, dramatic, and orchestral music. 'Mother' features guest vocals by former Christian Death mainman Rozz Williams, and 'Hymn From The Shadows' is a long (25 minute) totally ambient instrumental journey that resembles, with it's percolating electronic effects, some long-lost krautrock gem - it's celestial and drifty in all the right places! 'Psalm' is a minimalist exercise, expressing a tone of solitude and regret, with Papa's voice accompanying martial drums and light keyboard textures. These final 2 tracks are the highlights for me, focusing more on the mood rather than song. Appealing more to fans of stuff like the Projekt Records stable than the usual noise/industrial crowd, 'In Blind Embrace' is laced full of dark textures and drawn-out moods - ideal for contemplation and introspection. (MVD Audio)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Greater Than One - brainwashed reissues

Greater Than One first caught my ear through their contribution ('The Dark Streets Of London') to the classic 1987 Placebo Records compilation, 'Dry Lungs III'. The following year, I snapped up their CD 'London' on higher profile Wax Trax! Records. The combination of politically-charged commentary, surrealist humour, and avante-electro rhythms was intelligent, and more in line with 'art-terrorism' than 'industrial rock'. Their single, 'I Don't Need God' (which even got airplay on MTV!), further evidenced that GTO were far more than 'a good beat to dance to'.
Using the address listed in the 'Dry Lungs III' notes, I wrote Lee Newman and Michael Wells requesting an interview for my zine, Godsend. They very cordially responded, and sent a series of images, art collages, and their early experimental cassette, 'Kill The Pedagogue'. Normally, my zine ran an interview with one musical artist, alongside short fictional pieces. The wealth of info that Greater Than One had sent me was so overwhelmingly pertinent and interesting, I decided to dedicate an entire issue to them, re-collaging and arranging their art around the interview. This 'Greater Than One' issue was printed in a few hundred copies and distributed internationally, and was met with mostly confusion and bewilderment. I continued to follow Newman and Wells' paths for several years towards their techno and rave phase, where I lost touch. Looking back, they created some of the most strikingly original electronic sounds of their day, and unfortunately, most of this work has remained criminally out of print. Thanks to Jon Whitney for making Greater Than One's timeless music available once again.

Greater Than One - "Kill The Pedagogue" CD

This short 32-minute early cassette release (here lovingly remastered for CD and issued in a tasteful letterpress card sleeve, and limited to 500 pieces) presents some of the earliest (1985) experiments from GTO's Lee Newman and Michael Wells, and it's a very rhythmic proto-industrial vibe - tape voices, tribal beats, and surreal noise. Definitely a product of it's era, and the dark nature of this recording led to the duo's appearance on similarly-minded Graeme Revell and Brian Lustmord's Side Effects label in 1987. Also included here, in mp3 file format, is the entire 'Lay Your Penis Down' tape - a more subtle, minimalist excursion resplendent in odd beats and early tapes/sampling experiments.
(Brainwashed Archives)

Greater Than One - "All The Masters Licked Me" 2xCD

This is the 1987 LP that followed 'Pedagogue', and it's a more highly-evolved and diverse set of moody post-industrial vibes, showing hints of new life amongst the ruins of the industrial culture. Most of the songs here are brief and instrumental, and highlights include 'The Rape Of Sam The Fox' - a heavy-handed, percussive cut that would fit well alongside early Laibach, and 'Kill That Parent' - a lighter, gentler, even contemplative piece with a sort of exotic feel - proving that Newman and Wells were always seeking new sounds and directions, even this early on in their careers. Other vignettes successfully create a series of moods, textures, and atmospheres, most of which border on the late-night and paranoiac. The haunting 'Psychotherapy' brings to mind Anthony Perkins, somehow, and 'Sweet Satellite' visits a far-off tribal ceremony with hand-drums and chants. 'We Hate America And American Hates Us', as well as 'We're OK' herald their heavy-sampling dialogue-oriented later work, as well as highlight the group's humour and political bend. Odd and enchanting sounds that easily double as a surreal soundtrack. Appended to this already well-stacked release is another disc, this one containing the whole of the 'Trust' cassette, which was a 2-track, 32-minute electronic soundtrack of sorts, more in line with the group's earliest post-industrial experiments. (Brainwashed Archives)

Greater Than One - "London" 2xCD + DVD

'London', originally released as a double-album in 1990, with it's intensively sampled media cutup glory, bridged the gap between GTO's industrial past and their acid house/techno future. Filled to the brim with big beats, electronic effects, and cleverly manipulated pop-culture debris, Newman and Wells make a variety of points (politically and artistically) with these heavily-danceable cuts. The MLK-sampling, hip-hop-infused 'Now Is The Time' could be seen as a call to arms, and 'Everybody's Crazy (Except Us)' brings a deft sense of humor and irony alongside the pounding beats and tribal chants. The hilarious 'Song For England' is an indictment of GTO's home country - samples of a bloke stating 'I'm deaf, I'm dumb, I'm blind' repeated to infinity alongside a steadily-building symphonic accompaniment. Truly a landmark cut, and as innovative as works by peers like Meat Beat Manifesto or Coldcut, easily. 'Techno Golden Beat' is majestic, joining dynamic orchestral samples with weird vocal splicings and clever sound manipulations. 'Peace' is a driving proto-techno piece, and 'Computer Dub' is a weird collision of media snippets and sound effects - all meshed around a dysfunctional rhythm of sorts. By the time the set gets around to what would be side 4, 'The Dark Streets Of London' brings the journey around to a shadowy, seedier underbelly of jolly ol' England. Terrific work, and definitely aging very well, thanks very much. Disc 2 contains 'Dance Of The Cowards' - a previously vinyl-only early mix/version of 'London', and appends some rare comp tracks for added value. This is a comprehensive set, indeed. The DVD includes Greater Than One's rare videos (including the 'hit' 'I Don't Need God') plus some concert/installation films. A tremendous set full of tense electronic sounds, big beat fun, and highly insightful socio-political commentary. (Brainwashed Archives)

Greater Than One - "G-Force" 3xCD

Greater Than One's final full-length release before they evolved into various pseudonyms (including acronym GTO, Tricky Disco, and Technohead), this 1989 Wax Trax! release showed Newman and Wells moving ever closer to the emerging acid house scene of the time. Armed with loads of samples from everything and anything, this set of intensely danceworthy tunes takes cues from Kraftwerk, Public Enemy, and visual artists, among others, and this mix was simultaneously bewildering (the group's surrealist, art-conscious references went far over the heads of most of their listening audience, unfortunately) and refreshing. Greater Than One's production here was thunderous and clear, allowing the space for massive orchestral/choral samples to share the atmospheres with the crushing electro-rhythms and masterful sequencing. If their political commentary/intentions are included here, they are far more submerged and sublime, yet still clever and amicably clubby. 'Why Do Men Have Nipples?' is a hilarious send-up of dating TV shows, leaving this set on a cynical but light-hearted note. The bonus discs include the entirety of the 'I Don't Need God' single, the 'Utopia' single, and the 'Index' EP (which includes the genius parody 'Metal), not to mention almost 2 hours worth of unreleased and rare tracks from the era in mp3 form. Again, Brainwashed has assembled a superlative and comprehensive set that sums up the entire recorded output of the duo under this name. Simply amazing, and well worth every penny. (Brainwashed Archives)

Greater Than One site

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Windy & Carl - "Songs For The Broken Hearted" CD

Michigan's favorite dream/drone duo Windy & Carl are unheralded masters of effected, blurry, post-shoegazer soundscapes. This, their first major release in a couple of years, is an ode of sorts to love, both the beauty and bliss of it all, and the doubt, blame, and pain of it. Functioning much like one extended, hypnotic piece, 'Songs....' encompasses everything from tonally-layered driftworks ('the lulling When We Were') to gentle, fragile, and emotive subtlety ('Champion', which includes some hazily distant vocals). But if you read this as being some kind of lethargic release, you'd be wrong. Windy & Carl's freeflowing and gorgeous sounds are like meditations - organic and transcendent, and the 71 minutes here flow by far too quickly. Folks like Spiritualized or Mogwai take these sounds and put them into more rock-oriented frameworks, but W&C keep it pure, distilling the sounds of life into their barest essences, without concessions for melody or rhythm. Absolutely lovely, otherworldly music and full-on recommended. (Kranky)

Windy & Carl

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Killing Joke - "Rmxd" CD

It seems that Killing Joke (and/or their past record companies) are pulling out all the stops, reissuing just about everything KJ from years past. Certainly a great thing, as this UK-based act has just about singlehandedly brought together the now-popular collision of post-punk with heavy rock and dark, industrial overtones. This new set of mostly unreleased-on-CD cuts assembles many of the Joke's eighties-era 12" extended and dance mixes on one disc, from their anthemic (and, unfortunately, dated) 'Eighties (Serious Dance Mix)' and the classic 'Love Like Blood (Extended 12" Mix)' to weaker (the new-wavey 'Sanity', 'Stay One Jump Ahead'). Gems like 'Kings And Queens' get some extra bass/drum muscle, whereas 'Wardance (RAF Mix)' is as raw and aggressive as ever. 'A New Day' is another great song (yes, I said song) that gets the extended treatment here a couple of times. No problem with that.
Sure, this milder and oh-so-very 80's dance mix material isn't really the best starting point for the curious, as Jaz, Geordie, Raven, and company were to later re-emerge as an even heavier, leaner, and meaner beast on the amazing 'Extremities' album of 1990 - and they continue even today, 25+ years later, with integrity, power, and intelligence. It's not fair to see KJ solely as 80's synth-pop new-wavers (as this collection may have some believe), but for collectors, this selection is golden. (EMI Gold)
Killing Joke

Los Difuntos - "Los Difuntos" CD

Hailing from the streets of East L.A., Los Difuntos carry an endorsement from Rancid's Matt Armstrong (who appears on the hit-worthy singalong 'Lucy'), and thusly, they will probably be consigned to the 'punk' section of your indie record store. However, when was the last time you heard a theremin on a punk record? Yes, these guys are headed for bigger and better things. Fusing elements of classic punk (they reference Joe Strummer on 'Memories') with hints of Tex-Mex (the wonderfully filmic 'Dirge'), rocka/psychobilly ('Poseur Josh'), some Western (they list Hank Williams as an influence), ska/punk ('Lies In Disguise'), and more, Los Difuntos first and foremost write songs that have actual melodies and create moods - and they do it like seasoned pros. This is a diverse record with a superb mix of tempos, sounds, and styles. Los Difuntos are a breath of fresh air in a scene full of copycats and soundalikes. I'll give this one some more spins, for sure, for it's upbeat grooves and catchy tuneage. Dig it. (Nickel And Dime Records)

Los Difuntos page

Sunday, November 9, 2008

b°tong - “Structures” CD

Summed up well by the quote inside: "...This is an invocation, a journey into the void...", this collection of effected and processed field recordings by Swiss electronic artist Chris Sigdell was inspired by a visit to Sweden's Jukkasjarvi ice palace, and the cold and unforgiving atmospheres set forth here are really pretty malevolent and ominous. The journey begins with the deep reverberations of 'Hands Up: Who Wants To Die', which brings to mind an abandoned (and possibly haunted) seaport - complete with creepy, jarring, disembodied voices and sinister whispers. Chilling and effective. 'Motherlode' begins a bit like some of Chris Watson's amazing recordings of the Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland (contained on his 'Weather Report' CD), or maybe some of Thomas Koner's glacial ambience. That is, until the ice falls away violently with massive, crushing sheets of ice and torrential waters falling deeply into an endless abyss - an incredible recording and ragingly powerful, like nature herself. The track later crawls back into the shadows, with what sounds like more water echoing along deep underground caverns. Absolutely enveloping and breathtaking. The disc is worth it for this track alone. Later tracks also utilize cavernesque sounds and snippets of muted voices - creepily atmospheric and unmistakably cold. A superlative release of darkened environments and harrowing moods. (Noecho Records)

Sigdell's site with sound samples

The Young Gods - "Knock On Wood - The Acoustic Sessions" CD

Swiss electronic-rock act the Young Gods are destined to confound and royally piss off many of their 'fans' with this release. Initially tarred with the 'industrial metal' brush back in the late 80's, vocalist Franz Treichler and keyboardist/programmer Al Comet have since dabbled in ambient techno and richly-orchestrated Chanson (their album of Kurt Weill covers was an early move that paid off handsomely in differentiating them from their more meatheaded peers).
Here, in a completely unexpected and unprecedented move, 'Knock On Wood' sees the group recreating some of their early classics with purely acoustic guitar, drums, sitars, kalimba, woodblocks, etc. These are completely reinvented songs, and amazingly, it works quite nicely. 'Our House' opens with a lovely tapestry of nylon and metal string guitars - sonically flowing and natural. In it's earlier form, this song was a locomotive of tension and aggression. Here, it's sedate, calm, and relaxing. And a music-box style melody is revealed. Impressive! 'Gasoline Man' is country-tinged, rollicking, and rocking - an American road tale as if visualized by Wim Wenders, perhaps. The (originally) explosive guitar shrapnel of songs like 'Longue Route' or 'Skinflowers' are rendered almost folky, yet still bold and melodic.
The extended cover of Suicide's legendary 'Ghost Rider' is lengthy and droning, but somehow maintains the hypnotic vibe of the original, though it lacks the unhinged manic quality of Rev & Vega's original.

Having been a fan of these guys for a long time ('Envoye' was a revelation of sorts in it's day), and knowing that Franz, Al, and company always sought to inject a real organic feel to their machine-driven music, I approached this with curiosity, and was rewarded with their finest work in years. They write songs with soul, and in that context, this project is a success. Just where they will go from here should be an exciting trip, and I look forward to being along for that journey. (PIAS Europe)

Young Gods site

A recent live acoustic video for 'Skinflowers', as featured on this album:

The 'Lucidogen' promo video from 2000:

tBH - "Book Of Salms" CDR

This brief (26-minute) release of strange electronic improvisations sprung forth from late-night jam sessions involving ex-members of obscure UK industrial outfit The Brainhole. First off, the cleverly hand-made and recycled packaging is tactile and interesting, and gives these abstracted alien soundscapes an air of terrest-reality. Jumping into the music, we have 'Alumni 2' - a short slice of atmospheric static and texture that (almost) approaches a melody, though that may be a by-product of some repetitive motifs, rather than a preconceived plan. 'Untitled 1' devolves into a series of annoying sound-globs and ear-testingly shrill tones - ominous at times, but overall patience-trying. The brief 'Prescopate' is an early industrial-sounding mix of cutups, electronic blips and samples - reminding me slightly of very early Cabaret Voltaire. 'Preu' continues with this vibe - shrill tones, blasts of noise/sirens, random environmental sounds, and electronic tensions. Good, solid avante-industrial work. The final track, 'Seething Sours', is another tense bit of random sounds and glitchy static - effective and nicely atmospheric. Overall, some solid and surreal audio work - rough and raw in spots, but ultimatly rewarding in it's unpredictability. (Noecho)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Marc Almond - "Live At The Lokerse Feesten 2000" DVD

Captured live in Belgium in a festival setting on his 'Open All Night' tour, the suave and flamboyant Almond here treats the audience to a fine cross section of his tunes, from some then-new ones all the way back to his Soft Cell days. And he was certainly in fine form that night - the theatrical and Latin-tinged 'Love To Die For' is stylish and dramatic. Almond's voice has never been sharper and well-honed, and his blend of red light district tragedy and tortured torch-diva fits in nicely next to his heartfelt sincerity and dark irony. From his pop-star days, he's morphed into a classy and debonair cabaret vocalist - but with a sinister bend. He's a logical heir to the throne held by Jacques Brel or Scott Walker, and this live DVD encompasses his entire career well. 'Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart' is epic, symphonic, and stirring, while Brel's Chanson 'Jacky' is bouncy and passionate. His hit 'Tears Run Rings' is here re-envisioned as a sweetly bitter dance cut, and 'Say Hello Wave Goodbye' as always been a gloriously moving song, and still is. Wow.
Marc Almond is an immensely talented and charismatic singer and enduring songwriter, and this 16-song concert is a must for fans. (Charly Films via MVD Visual)

Marc Almond site

And here's a clip of one of the more rocking cuts from this DVD, featuring guitars by Neal X (formerly of Sigue Sigue Sputnik).