Tree porridge


Bringing up the bodies

Hiya, hope you’re keeping well… Bank Holiday this weekend isn’t it, carnival, silly opening hours, summer’s last true showing, jumpers for goalposts, all that shite. If you're lucky, that is. Either way, we wish you a good one.
A heads-up – although at this late stage I’m not sure “heads-up” is the right phrase. We are putting on a show down the road at Café Oto on Thursday 20th September and would love you to join us. We’re very pleased to be presenting three bands/projects we’ve been following for ages but whose most recent recorded offerings have burnt our brains up something rotten: the mighty Tropa Macaca from Portugal, Sweden’s Blod (of Förlag För Fri Musik
 fame), and London’s own Acolytes. Should be a night of heavy vibes, heavy drinking, heavy everything. It certainly won’t be the same without YOU… tickets available soon.



SUBLIMINAL SOUNDS | 2LP | £29.99 | CD | £14.99

A majestic, quietly awe-inspiring return to record for Sweden’s preeminent heavy-weather minimalists. Träden is the latest incarnation, or descendent, of the group mind that first assembled under the name Pärson Sound, morphed into International Harvester around ’68, and then settled into a long and illustrious stretch as Träd, Gras Och Stenar (Trees, Grass & Stones) - their aim to “find a music with potential to transform the sense, a music that could make way for the new world order.”

We all know that when veteran groups hit the studio in game pursuit of The Old Magic, things usually goes tits-up. Not so here. This perhaps has a lot to do with the purity and potency of the Träd mission, but also to do with personnel: long-serving (since ’71) TGOS psychonaut Jakob Sjoholm is backed up here by young disciples Hanna Ostergren, Sigge Krantz and Reine Fiske, who bring a certain vigour and freshness to things, sure, but also (it seems to us) the puritanical stuckist zeal of the true fan. Like Annie with her sledgehamer, they're not about to allow Sjoholm, let alone themselves, to sully Träd's godlike reputation and, more to the point, they know what WE want, because, well, THEY ARE WE.  

What an incredible album they've pulled out of the hat. Even at its most fanatically repetitive, monged-out and elliptical (the late Thomas Gartz isn't the only TGOS member to have pointed out the band's affinity with experimental techno and trance musics), there's a humble, pastoral quality to these carefully harnessed improvisations. It's music bound to landscape, in tune with the environment, honouring Träd's foundational dream of making sound suitable for a modern nature religion: mysterious, hypnotic, ego-dissolving, effortlessly eternity-bestriding. It's a music of both grand gestures, and tremendous subtlety, detail and restraint: evocative of both towering forest pines, and, in the memorable words of the band themselves, something more like "tree porridge" (!). 

The guitar soloing and interplay, while boasting something of the lyrical, liquid (porridge?!) shimmer of peak Dead or Ash Ra or Nick McCabe, and the grieving cosmic howl of Bremen or Corrupted, is fundamentally rootsier, its ragged, mid-paced harmonic attack maybe owing more to Neil Young (although on the high-lonesome 'Hymn' its dialogue with the drums echoes nothing so much as Pajo/ McCombs in Tortoise). The droning, voidal intensity of the music comes (as far as we can tell) not from synths or oscillators, but from the bleed and blur of guitar, drums and bass, and is more satisfying for it. Vocals, when they do appear, are in Swedish: no idea what exactly they're saying but they convey all the yearning and hurt and ecstasy and confusion you could ask for. 

In its celestial aspirations, Träden seems somehow to reconnect you to the earth, your self, The Place From Which Your Whole Life Flows. And maybe there's an added poignancy to the whole project given the new world order’s ongoing no-show - hey, even Svensk hippies get the blooz. Available in an undeniably expensive 2LP (worth it for the exquisite artwork) or you-may-still-eat CD edition; whichever you plump for, it’s absolutely essential. 



LA BEAUTE DE NEGATIF | 12” | £9.99
Even if you’re understandably wary of old-skool jungle revives (who needs ‘em???) I urge you to check out this absolute beauty of a four-tracker from The Jaffa Kid, which use retro tools, true, but to build something I reckon sounds pretty timeless. The vibe is along the lines of Photek’s T-Raenon, but a little smudgier, rolling breaks submerged under dreamy synths that nod to the androids-on-spliff heyday of early British IDM and the more ambient end of Detroit techno. If I was gonna hype it (oops there I go) I’d say, imagine Convextion/ERP if he was a junglist – such is the stately sweep of them string-pads. Check it! La Beaute Negatif is always quality really, once you get beyond the “drum n bass from Italy” thing, dug out this one the other day too, it’s great.



GUERSSEN | CD | £14.99
So we’ve been tentatively buying in a few CDs for the shop – sometimes records just bore the hell out of you eh – and among the back cat stuff that presented itself and felt essential was this 2013 Guerssen reissue of Steve Hall ’s braindead, cranked-up, grotbags psych-punk epic Get Stoned Ezy, originally self-released on his Bonk label in 1982. Self-professed hippy-punk, with a prodigious appetite for glue and smack, this Kentish one-man-band pretty much nailed bonehead rock PERFECTION across his slim discography, and Get Stoned Eazy – credited to High Speed & The Afflicted Man - remains his greatest and most sublimely nihilistic achievement. Tom Lax put it best when he described it as “too freaked out for punks, too punked out for freaks.” It’s dead simple really: over a minimal, unrelenting drumbeat and three-note bassline your man just churns out hard bruising riff after hard bruising riff, chuck in the occasional hooligan Hendrix lead, stomp every pedal in sight, and… BLAST OFF. Hawkwind, Stooges and High Rise are all helpful signposts for Hall’s gleeful self-immolation, but I always think of a more fucked-off and drug-deranged Tony McPhee: the title track and ‘Zip ‘Ead’ especially sound like Groundhogs at the lowest ebb of a three-day bender but still bringing it. The aural equivalent of smoking three fags at once…the true sound of oblivion…FLAWLESS MASTERPIECE. Remastered sound with liner notes from Chris Stigliano (Black To Comm).



ARABSTAZY | LP | £23.99
Eye/ear-opening compilation of contemporary electronic music from the Arab World, put together by the Tunisian collective Arabstazy. I can barely make it to breakfast without accidentally saying something culturally insensitive or ill-informed or presumptuous, so I’ll quote Arabtazy’s manifesto for the Under Frustration series (two further volumes are on the way) directly: “This musical journey stands for the diversity of this scene, and deconstructs the occidental perceptions that sees the Arab World as a culturally united and homogeneous entity. It is a manifesto for the burgeoning wave of post-revolution futurism…Following the Arab Spring events that brought a major change to the Maghrebi cultural and artistic ecosystem, the collective explores how the Arab World is perceived and perceives itself, and lays the foundations of what could be part of a new wave of North African and Middle Eastern futurism." Many of the tracks here marry explicitly local song-structures and tonalities to modern digital processing, with often dazzling and disorienting results, but the most compelling pieces for me are those that are less easily placed: the fizzing, popping, Pole-esque techno-dub of Ismael’s ‘2310’, Shinigami’s radgy house deconstruction ‘FGTN’ (which could easily be mistaken for Tribe Of Colin or Heith), or Muudra’s collision of amplified field recordings with minimal 808-driven hip-hop on ‘Hemshin Breath'. 



ACCIDENTAL JNR | 12” | £9.49
We’ve had this in for a week or two, and I wasn’t going to bother putting it in the newsletter, but to be honest this weekend I was working in the shop three days straight (rare for me) and must’ve listened to ‘See You On Monday’ 20 times or more. Perfect soundtrack to Friday night giddiness, Saturday hangover, Sunday soul-searching and all points in between. Didn’t get bored of it. Was also struck by how many punters either instantly recognised it, wanted to know what it was, or involuntarily grooved to it (a foot tap here, a little shimmy there…varying degrees of sass). There aren’t many records – especially ones of such restrained, unconfrontational, emollient character – that have that kind of instant and broad appeal. So yeah, I felt we might I well give it it’s a due, in case there’s any among you who don’t know it, or have never given it much attention.

It’s weird, the acceptable sound of deep house ossified so long ago that it’s easy to forget that it took ingenuity and and experimentation and inspiration to arrive at it, and that once, many years ago, that sound felt truly cutting edge. It’s also easy to forget what an absolute fucking DON Herbert was when he was making music for dancefloors and not for conceptual shits and giggles – or, more accurately, when the balance of function and conceptual shits and giggles was judged just right. He surely deserves as much credit as anyone for finessing the imported sound of Chicago and NY into the silken, unmistakeably Euro sound that still dominates the world of housey house today – and Christ, he does it with such CLASS. ‘Rude’ and ‘Ooh Licky’, which prop up the A-side of this nicely (as in handsomely but modestly) presented reissue of the Parts 1 12” (originally released on Phono in ’96) , but I could never really get on with those vocal samples. Rivalled only by the surgical ruffness of ‘Take Me Back’, ‘See You Monday’ is unquestionably Herbert’s defining house moment: just divine, so stately and centered, a comedown track really, with an undertow of deep melancholy but fundamentally optimistic – even at my craggy basically-waiting-to-die age, I listen to this and feel an instant shedding of  dead weight, and see the future opening up in front of me. What a beautiful and unlikely gift that is. Cheers Herbert.  
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