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)