Morning, and huge apologies for intruding on your wknd>>>>
Yeah it's a bit late VERY LATE out of the silo, this week's newsletter, thanks to last-minute tax return dramas plus overexcitement at Sanjay's return from the mutti-land plus a flash-bout of mystery illness (feeling much better now but for some reason can't stop hiccupping. It's very undignified.).
Anyway, life goes on...and on and on and on.
And now that the fun part of the year is over, we wish you well for the true slog that lies ahead (hic) xx
Four bullets to the head from a shōgun assassin with roots in dnb but fast evolving his own custom strain of minimalist sound-murder. ‘The Centipede’ wears its junglism lightly, but is heavy in all other respects: a kind of low-slung, paranoid gangster-tekno, ultra-dread and dub-cratered, driven by churning subs, batwing-flapping snares and acres of negative space...yeah this owes as much to Skull Disco, duppiest early DMZ and Raime’s Hennail as it does to drum ‘n bass. ‘Menpo’ and ‘OathKeeper' are just as murky and prickly-palm tense, but stretched and flexed and primed for the dance - bass-drones flaring up like mardy cobras, beats fashioned from some impossible alloy of bamboo and hanzo-steel – before all shackles are shaken (shiken?) and total blast-off is achieved with the airtight breaks and teetering death-star synths of 'Oni'. Still living in the hope that Vincent Ward’s insane abandoned treatment for Alien 3 might yet one day be filmed – er, xenormophs vs a brotherhood of 14th century monks orbiting the earth in a wooden space station – and this would be the perfect soundtrack. But let’s not overemphasize its darkside: The Centipede traffics in suspense rather than doom, its violence is carefully portioned, it goes about its biz with stealth rather than brute-force. Execution-style… You’re dead before you know what hit you.
Summat special this… LP of mystery provenance capturing Grauzone’s initmitable brand of death-ray NDW / uptight funk at its powerful, pistoning best, live in 1981. Whilst what you both DO and DON’T want is a collection of ‘Eisbar’ encores, what is forced upon you is an untamed document of the thumping, unhinged Swiss power house slugging through their signature, high velocity, ultra-frigid synth-punk with a ferocity and vitality that no studio recording could match, a performance probably only beheld by few but part of a legacy that changed the game for so many. If you know..you know. Once these are gone, they’re real gone, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
TOP tier sound exploration from saxophonist Philippe Mate and Daniel Vallancien; Mate submitting his beloved saxophone to a thorough sieving and steaming by his pal DV and his maverick engineering prowess - Vallancien, a seeming lynchpin of the whole 70s French / BYG debacle and all round control room IDEAS GUY, finding himself plonked behind the glass for a TON of heavyweights - Dharma Quintet, Don Cherry, Brigitte Fontaine ++. This particular session sees his sonic know-how being brought very much to the foreground and allowed to fully hallucinate - rolling, playful progressions on tracks like “Sanza Sallee” sounds like three marimbas in a house of mirrors, or a dubbed out Daniel Schmidt LP, one of a few uplifting percussive daydreams that are scattered throughout, before the guys sombre up and descend into paranoid brainstorms like “Campus” - ol’ Mate’s saxophone set free to slowly lose it’s mind and make up the general studio mood - vicious, absorbing free-jazz melters that totally blow the beard off so much else from that world. Another DEADLY reissue that we’ve been scrambling to get our hands on for quite some time - highly recommended.
“Movement is too expensive / breathing is cheap…for now.” Surreal, theatrical, crypto-autobiographical and unexpectedly SLAMMING techno-pop meditation on gender, work and the fraught and perma-compromised act of mere BEING in the late capitalist pleasure-palace/prison. Tons of fun but with a simmering rage just below its surface, Bad Woman seems almost too good to be true – how has Céline Gillain gone from one (admittedly ace) 7” on Lexi Disques to this full-bore future-classic LP which, from its amazing/'orrible Snapchat-filtered cover art and oversharing lyrics on down, speaks to and embodies the present condition in all its garishness and confusion and awfulness while also, somehow, being GOOD.
Gillain's vocals, delivered in a vinegary and volatile English (managing to sound vulnerable and feral and vampish and alien-nation WISE all at once...Grace Jones came to mind a few times) are a joy, performing (and parodying and dismantling) at least half a dozen typical “female” roles along the way, but honestly, like Phew's first LP (!) or Lolina's The Smoke, none of this would land so well if the production wasn’t as staggeringly on-point as it is. Spiritually it harks back to that early 2000s sweet-spot when front-line minimal techno and electroclash converged with a mutant/art-pop impulse in the work of people like Safety Scissors, Soft Pink Truth, Gudrun Gut, Felix Kubin - but updated with 2019-calibre rhythm/bass weaponry and armour-plating … seriously these tracks are heavier, sparser, steelier, GULLIER than you'd ever expect – euro-dance mascara running to reveal the kind of ruff, succinctly psychedelic soundsystem-techno stylings you might expect from, I dunno, a Batu or a Heith. BAD WOMAN indeed. Such a killer, listened to little else all week, don't say we didn't tell ya>>>>>>
Issue #6 of Jay Hinman's zine out of San Francisco. Features on Brannten Schnure and our very own Carla dal Forno, a very welcome post-Garbage & The Flowers discography, guides to Velvet Underground bootlegs and LA punk compilations, plus reviews and more. 44 pages. A right good read.
CD in deluxe 6 panel gatefold digipak. Whatever you think you know, don't underestimate how original and insurrectionary Regis and Surgeon's initial run of British Murder Boys 12”s and live aktions were, before their first break-up. At a time – hard to imagine now – where techno and industrial/noise/scum-punk couldn’t have felt more at odds, BMB married genuine performance BOTTLE – that is, a pissed Regis barking cult-leader/drill-sergeant commands (Jim Jones by way of Windsor Davies) and semi-murmured self-loathing non sequiturs at typically unsuspecting and generally outraged dancefloors – to roiling, dubwise, heavy-as-a-death-in-the-family but devilishly SWUNG and syncopated rhythms. They smuggled a then much-needed dose of discomfort and negative energy into the club, and what they played passed the acid-test of avant-garde dance music, which is to say, people didn’t know HOW to dance it, but felt compelled to try (couldn’t tell you, but I imagine pogoing at Fabric is as rare a sight today as it was 15 years ago). BMB essentially answered a (seemingly mad) question that Surgeon’s DJ sets had been asking for years: what if Basic Channel and Whitehouse were in fact the same band????
It’s 2019 now though, and as the way of things, their innovations, and incitements to riot, have been largely assimilated. Production-wise, a whole new generation of producers across the techno and dnb spectrum have ransacked them for inspiration. The sight of a man shouting garbled obscenities into a mic over sheets of metallic noise and sledgehammer breaks is no longer reason to call security and have him ejected from the club. And yet and yet--
Fire In The Still Air is a ferocious reminder of how out on their own BMB always were, still are. It gives a far more satisfying account of their music, and the havoc it can wreak, than any of the 12”s (or, indeed, the 2015 retrospective boxset), those dense, monolithic productions gleefully, mercilessly ripped up and reconstituted for maximum aggro/ecstatic effect. Info about the disc is deliberately scant, but whether it’s a recording of a live set or composite of several or a premeditated studio session, it doesn't really matter...for us it kinda functions as a kind of greatest hits, subtly updating, and in a couple of cases radically overhauling, their back catalogue, making you hear classics like ‘Hate Is Such A Strong Word’ and ‘Don't Give Way To Fear' afresh, and also showcasing recent/new material in the best possible context. The kings of chicken-in-a-basket techno cabaret are dead...long live the kings.
Regular readers please forgive us twatting on about it yet again, but seeing as it's little more than a week away we HAVE to mention for the umpteenth time the LOW COMPANY XMAS PARTY, which takes place next Saturday 8th December at Bar A Bar - 10 minute trot from the shop - and runs from 10pm-6am. We're bringing in our own sound and guest DJs NKISI(NON Worldwide, Doomcore, UIQ, Arcola ++) and MARK (A Colourful Storm, Unterton) plus EXTENDED SHOPPE CREW (Kenny, Meg, Jim, Sanjay ++). Advance tickets are available online here, and also in person from the shop. We'll be having a wee pre-party at the shop - free entry, all welcome, BYO - from 6pm, with tunes from man next door Paco LA VIDA ES UN MUS. Gonna be a hoot...o come all ye faithful>>>>>
OK, this week's picks as follows. Quite heavy on archival business again this week, presumably because any current, career-minded label/artist - i.e. NOT KOMARE - is biding their time til January to peddle their wares now, cos let's face it, we're all running down the clock now - 2019 can't come soon enough eh (NEW YEAR NEW YOU). We'll be casting our eye back over THE YEAR THAT WAS soon enough, but right now we have to go and get this party together, plus the rest. See ya!
KOMARE KOMARE ROUND BALE | CS | £9.99
Brittle, burbling, opaque minimal synth sufferahs from two moonlighting Mosquitoes, offering a more reduced, scum-electronic take on the fractious decentralised out-rock we know and love them for.
Far from throwing out the baby with the bongwater, this self-titled, six-track cassette offers a pretty thrilling x-ray/intensification of the Mozzies’ yellow-fever abstraction - easier to pin down, perhaps (think Storm Bugs, or TG, or the Mark Perry of Snappy Turns / Vibing Up The Senile Man / Detailed Twang - Snapping Up The Senile Twang???? ) but also more immediate, with its dread keyboard oscillations, muted machine-gun drums, and monotone, hold-onto-ID vocals that manage to sound sardonic and detached but at the same time pretty exposed and vulnerable - capturing that feeling when you're at a wedding and the pissed-up ex-boyfriend of the bride decides that HE would like to stand up and give a little speech thank you very much and the entire room holds its breath waiting for him to say something massively inappropriate or possibly try to self-harm on-stage and wondering whether to intervene but in the end he just politely wishes her and the groom well and staggers meekly back to his seat and the band start up with an awkward 'Sexy Thing'.
I’m not sure there’s anything released this year that will top Mosquitoes' instant-classic Drip Water Hollow Out Stone, but for pursuers of ULTIMATE ENTERTAINMENT this is your next best fix, and vigorously recommended by us. London's insect population continues to survive and thrive under the floorboards...cassette edition of 100 from Round Bale of Minnesota (!).
THE NEXT PACIFIC CITY SOUND VISIONS | LP | £23.99
Following on from those important and far-sighted revivals of Vox Populi’s Half Dead Ganja Music and Frank Dommert’s Kiefermusik, Spencer Clark turns his occasional arkival attentions to the cenobitic electronics and water-snake concrète of Hamburg artist Dörte Marth, aka MAAT, pulling from her two album releases of 1993, Sie and Konstruktionen, for the tracklist of The Next.
Painted from a glistening palette of electronic drums, cooing Eastern melodies and perverse classical motifs, MAAT’s work is somehow also brooding and oneiric and full of occult suggestion - and is perhaps most easily understood in the context of exploratory industrial music, especially its intersections with the post-classical avant-garde, idiosyncratic genre-movie soundtracks, and the then-emerging numb-wave of Isolationist/ambient techno. Clark invokes H.N.A.S., Limpe Fuchs, Anima… you could happily add to that list Phew, Rapoon and Black Light District, while there are passages of computer-controller string-judder and AI synth drift that anticipate, respectively Konrad Sprenger’s Stack Music and Autechre’s Amber, and Marth’s sparingly deployed vocals - eldritch and dramatic yet distant and detached and artfully off-key - invite the standard Christa Pfanger comparison.
In its more playful passages the music’s influence on Spencer Clark’s own recent work - Typhonian Highlife, Fourth World Magazine - is obvious. But whereas Clark’s work assumes, and relies upon, some understanding of his early 80s/late 90s VHS myth-kitty, MAAT seems to exist in its own hermetically sealed world, in thrall not to the lurid dreamworks and image-making of late capitalism but simply to Marth’s own curious and implacable id. Really been knocked for six by this record, it's properly out on its own. Forget everything you thought you knew! Edition of 280 and an essential purchase.
Thought we’d throw a spanner in the works of the glut of Oz wave pyjama gear with this pile-driving breakcore straight outta the Newcastle badlands. This Xylocaine 7” is the latest in the series reliving the unemployed, white middle-class boredom relief that became the Bloody Fist glory days on this fit-for-purpose 7” label, Old Rope, run by the big fist himself, Mark Newlands of Nasenbluten. Coming in welcome BF, ruffneck style, Aaron Lubinski (who also ran the excellent dEAdGirL label around the same time) yaks up three tracks of heavy, antisocial mid-90s beat science / aggro bush-doof like a squad of antipodean Geordies shoving DJ Sy down the stairs of a double-decker bus on it's way to Bangface, all boiled down into a frantic, but ultimately, BLOODY good fun, sampledelic sensory overload. All Oz grime donking aside, a refreshing lack of pretension catapults this record into this week's mailer as we race to the bottom of the 2018 EOY wastebin - it’s a nosebleed time machine and middle-finger counterpoint to the polished post-internet branding of everything - everything - today.
Luminous, undersung LP from Pierre Bastien and Bernard Pruvost, billed by Souffle Continu - whose reissue lovingly replicates the original 1978 release on Jac Berrocal and Michel Potage’s d’Advantage label - as a kind of French riposte to Max Eastley and David Toop’s New And Rediscovered Musical Instruments, “combining research and tradition in a quest for a new imaginary folklore”. The name Nu Creative Methods - sounds like something off Warriors Dance! - was a nod both to Don Cherry’s ‘Nu Creative Love’ and to Francis Ponge’s book My Creative Method, and its take on free jazz is playful, rangy and unusually lyrical, full of the kind of unusual timbres and powerful, provisional ambiences that only the cream of improvised music can generate…Highly recommended for fans of Fontaine/Areski, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Jacques Thollot’s Intra Music, Berrocal’s La Nuit Est Au Courant ++++
Man, they don't make Ethnic Forgeries like they used to! Canadian fine artist Michael Snow is best known for his film work, but as a trained jazzer landing in 60s New York, he inevitably became embroiled in the city's mushrooming musical avant-garde, releasing an LP (Musics For Piano, Whistling, Microphone and Tape Recorder) on Philip Glass's Chatham Square label and generally becoming a bit of a downtown mover and shaker and (thoughtful) piss-taker. Some years later - 1987 to be precise - he came out with The Last LP, an album for Art Metropole purporting to be a documentary recording of the dying gasps of ethnic musical cultures from around the globe including Tibet, Syria, India, China, Brazil and Finland, with copious, insanely detailed supporting sleevenotes.
It was, however, a wind-up, an elaborate fiction - all the sounds you hear were the work of Snow himself. The eagle-eyed (or indeed anyone who bothers to read) will spot a number of clues - i.e. some good jokes - buried in those sleevenotes, while the eagle-eared (do eagles have good hearing? Do eagles have ears??? I truly know nothing of the world) might spot the Whitney Houston song embedded in 'So Napa (By What Signs Will I Come To Understand)'.
Positioned later as an "investigation into the effects (both negative and positive) of Western recording technology on the world's few remaining, at the time of recording, ancient pre-industrial cultures", The Last LP could legitimately be accused of cultural appropriation - I mean COURSE it could - but really it's a vicious parody of that very impulse...each track claims to be not just a recording of its subject, but the "last possible" recording (as when the intrepid “Michael Snow” wipes out an entire Lapland tribe by introducing them to the Hong Kong ‘flu.) Genius record, all told, and the perfect Xmas prezzie for that easily offended special someone in your life!
This week's picks speak for themselves, and if they don't, the paragraphs of Nespresso-fuelled (yeah it's THE WAY I ARE) dross below should help. As such, gonna use the preamble to flag up - in a bit more detail - our upcoming LOW COMPANY XMAS PARTY.
Yessss on December 8th, 2018 we'll be celebrating the birth of christ with special guests NKISI (NON Worldwide/Arcola/UIQ/Doomcore++) and MARK (A Colourful Storm/Unterton++). We're returning to our favourite dark and dank and airless N16 basement, Bar A Bar, scene of our 1st birthday earlier in the year, but this time we’re bringing our own sound and we’ve got a late license so we can go louder n longer and really destroy your weekend!
We’re very excited to welcome Nkisi. Her forthcoming LP on UIQ is VERY eagerly anticipated round these parts, especially after her ‘Dark Orchestra’ 12” on Arcola earlier this year tore us a new wormhole with its splicing of African rhythms and hardstep/gabba/tekno sonics, prompting us to draw hamfisted but not-given-lightly comparisons with The Mover, Christoph de Babalon and Rufige Cru (yep!). Someone the other day remarked how crucial, and how often lacking, a sense of ALARM is in the dance - well Nkisi (b)rings the alarm, and then some, making music that is fearless and radgy as fuck but somehow supple and sensuous too and which you feel might actually be inventing the future rather than just sniffing its corpse.
The elusive Mark has become a bona fide SHOP FAVE off the back of his three 12”s to date, ‘Here Comes A Fucking Startup Campus’ and Integrier Dich Du Yuppie on A Colourful Storm, and more recently ‘The Least Likely Even Will Occur In The Longrun’ on Ostgut’s Unterton: deconstructions of prowling, predator-mode jungle/darkside dnb that actually re-mould and armour-plate the music for NOW, blending its DNA with that of flexing, minimalist warehouse techno, and somehow also finding time to lampoon/rue the flood of global capital and associated fuckery into Berlin. His in-store set for us back in spring impressed us mightily.... EXECUTIONER…. Shoppe crew… Kenny, Jim, Meg, Sanjay ++ … filling in the gaps. Tickets are £10 from our website or £8 for paper tickets available in-store only (these have finally been printed and are ready for ye)
Labyrinthine synth music that seems to borrow from the depressive electronics of Scandinavian black metal, the dark side of kosmische and progressive rock, disintegration-loop techno, and the kind of impossibly bleak interior landscapes conjured by Nico/Cale on The Marble Index. Arv & Miljö's origins are in noise, but in recent times its releases have traded hard-modernist harsh-outs for more playful and digressive pieces - from corroded parodies of new age to skewed, glue-it-yrself almost-pop and downer psych experiments that betray the Gothenburgian project’s heavy obsession with NZ lathe-cuts / zero-audience 4-track fuckabouts.
This new album appears at first a perfect vision of bucolic bliss - its title translates roughly as “Swedish Summer of Peaceful Tranquility” - but its surface calm of shimmering harmony belies - OF COURSE - roiling currents of existential unease…a loneliness and listlessness ripe to metastasise into psychosis and violence (the first is track titled ‘Stabbed In The Brain’, juz in case you didn't get the memo). Blood-lust aside, Svensk Sommar feels part of a venerable desolate-Swedes-with-keyboards continuum that also includes Ralph Lundsten, Anna Själv Tredje’s enigmatic, untouchable Tussilago Fanfara and those recently unearthed Civilistjavel! recordings, but also connects with the sequestered electronics of Burzum’s 'Rundgang um die transzendentale Säule der Singularität', the demolished folk of Alistair Galbraith and Flies Inside The Sun, the eternal-horizontal-moment of RST and GAS, the hidden-reverse drone-spells of Mirror and Vicki Jackman. By the time you’ve finished listening, those gambolling deer on the cover resemble nothing so much as DEAD MEAT. Gulp… Featuring guest appearances from Korea Undok Group, Charlotte Malmenholt, and Stefan Christiansen. Edition of 300.
Showcase of “SONICS PROPER” on Enginetics and Plasmalterations from enduring Portland mad-lad Best Available Technology. It’s a syzygy (JUST LEARNED THAT WORD TODAY) of abstract, duffed-up, drowned-world downtempo - think REQ’s One, or Urban Tribe’s Collapse of Modern Culture, etc - and mystic, mulchy, after-after-after-party dub-tekno, all threaded together with distinctly 21st century drone-logic. Yeah, it’s a really good one this, feels both timeless/rooted and very of the now... definitely my favourite ISLEINNAWHILE. Screenprinted tae fuck and v limited as per.
Christ almighty, a notably calm, somewhat wholesome evening of listening to The Flower Travellin’ Band, slugging herbal tea and debating whether a third Tunnocks Tea Cake is a bit much considering I have been sat on my arse most of today (day off, proper), HAS NOT aptly prepared me to buckle up and take on this putrid, waling DEMON disc - hissing spitting noise has come crashing into this humble abode and now it feels like someone is trying to top up my nonexistent tan with a blow-torch. Ouchya!!
Italian noise titans Urashima continue to burrow, at a rate like no other, further into the molten core of petrified noise cassettes from across the globe, this time, shining a light on a forgotten offering from two of Japan's most prolific all-things-impov’ers - Fumio Kosakai and Toshiba Mikawa. Their associations with Hijkaidan and a personal love of their early outings, Zouroku No Kibyou and King Of Noise is what initially called me to this modern re-do of the duos 1997 release, I, Residuum. Obviously it’s NOTHING remotely like these early documents, Zouroku coming out in 1982 and inhibiting a belting collection of live shouting matches / symphonies between noise modules, broken acoustic instruments and fractured rhythms a like, not to mention the 2min recording of one these cats making themselves sick - you go girl!
So aye, by the time 1997 has come around and these two are operating as INCAPACITANTS - their primary outlet for all things free of human intention, I, Residuumis a whole new, hardened, kettle of stress / boiling flesh! 40-something minutes of free, lawless sound, battering away on yer noggin’, screaming metal and tortured circuit boards come to form a punishing yet enchanting cadence - the sound of lying beneath an old rickety London Underground train as it rattles through a tunnel built barely big enough to fit it, creating ear-piercing vacuums as it rattles to its destination, transporting endless grey faces from one screen to another, or as if you’ve caught conjunctivitis on an aircraft carrier and unknowingly walked behind the engines of a revving harrier jump-jet. Aye, a bona fide face-melter.
Powerful stress-test and a BIG recommendation if you are intae Atrax Morgue, P.S.F., M.B. + the POINTY END of ESP Disk.
Crucial mini-comp from the UVB bunker, the latest chapter in their wholesale (but somehow barely remarked-upon by the wider world!) reinvention of dnb, but this time calling on a four-man hit-squad from beyond their immediate personnel - leading off with a cavernous, Ruffhouse-style dungeon stepper from newcomer Entire. Nekyia offers a more minimal, dub-techno-flavoured take on the same sort of rhythm, while the increasingly ubiquitous Forest Drive West delivers one of his very best productions to date in the form of 'Inverse''s skeletal but tuff, tensile drumfunk. The most impressive salvo though comes from another shadowy London producer: Hidden Hawaii associate DB1 and his time-signature-defying, techno-into-db revelation, 'Duppy Pulse'. Outstanding 12"!
Quite amazing that the chaotic deluge of reissues that have materialised since Peter Christopherson’s passing have almost succeeded in making Coil seem boring. Yes, you CAN have too much of a good thing - no one likes to have a starter of chocolate cake followed by a main course of chocolate cake and then chocolate cake for dessert (except my old mate Dean and he would be the first to admit he is FAT and not entirely happy). Coil records are generally speaking rich, bountiful, complex and multivalent things, and you need time to savour them, immerse yourself in them, and then, ideally, enjoy some distance from them. Some kind of patient, coherent and above-all chronological reissue programme - I think there was talk of Mego doing something like that at one point, but it didn’t come to pass - might have served the band’s legacy better, and might have better narrativised their evolution. But I suppose that approach might have been annoying and limiting and de-libidinizing in a dozen other ways, and also wouldn’t exactly reflect the disorderly way in which their work was published when they were still alive. Why try to make sense of senseless of things? So…it’s fine.
Following on from recent revivals of Worship The Glitch, Time Machines, Another Brown World, Astral Disaster and who knows what else, comes another outing for The Ape of Naples, more accurately a second pressing (2LP gatefold) for Important’s robust 2016 reissue. Enough time has elapsed since its initial release in 2005 for us to say, with a fair bit of confidence, that Ape is Coil’s masterpiece (and to be fair that sort of praise was pretty forthcoming even at the time). Completed by Christopherson in the aftermath of Jhonn Balance’s untimely death, you can’t help but feel it is, at some level, the sublimation of Balance’s deepest desire: to speak not TO “the absolute elsewhere”, but FROM it, to literally become a ghost, free of bodily limitations, a purely metaphysical, ethereal, and ultimately mythological being. An angel, a daemon, a god… or just a flux of deterritorialised energy. Working with Balance vocal takes and other material recorded at Trent Reznor’s New Orleans studio for the blighted Backwards LP, Christopherson created a work of sonic necromancy that is also, quite obviously, a devotional act, an expression of love and unimaginable grief.
Although it's Sleazy's inspired arrangements and glinting, gleaming threshold-electronics that bind The Ape of Naples together, he was fortunate to have a talented hit-squad of musicians in his employ as well: not just established lieutenants Drew McDowall and Thighpaulsandra, but also Ossian Brown (“synths and sensibility”), Cliff Stapleton (hurdy gurdy) and Mike York (pipes and duduk). All are crucial to the realisation of Ape’s vivid, transdimensional traumascape, its droning, cyclical songs which marry the mechanic and the organic, the astral and the shit-under-your-fingernails earthbound. Not for the first time, but never more so than here, Coil sound like a (cyber-)gothic folk band - Comus in space. Unsurprising that Sleazy’s next project was TG’s Desertshore installation, the Nico/Cale influence is really noticeable here.
'The Last Amethyst Deceiver', 'Cold Cell', 'Teenage Lightning'...every single track is stand-alone magnificent, and vital to the architecture of the whole. Closer (in the truest sense of the word) ’Going Up’, sung by Balance in teetering falsetto, is almost unbearably poignant, which only makes the realisation that the lyrics are taken from the theme tune of Are You Being Served? more delicious. It’s the perfect epitaph for Balance, Coil, and now Christopherson: more serious than you’ll ever be, even when they’re taking the piss….having their cake and eating it (hold tight Dean!).
Heavy, delirious with loss and pain, but also strangely optimistic and effervescent and empowering, The Ape of Naples will surely be remembered as one of the last true expressions/documents of England’s Hidden Reverse, and among the greatest albums ever made in any list that matters.
Shop fave Nick Klein stumbles back in with sounds from the bathroom wall, not quite going down Wetherspoons and setting up the mic for the old geezer grogging in the urinal next to you, or generating lyrical content from cubicle wall scribblings but tough, rolling, psychedelic grit scraped from basement cludgies where the soap don’t shine. It’s five cuts of bruiser/boozer modular clobber running HOT with blown out, broken hand dryer distortion contorting your surroundings - fleeting moments of clarity feeling like your getting a good wash, as in hosed down in the back lane or thrown in a washing machine with a coupla bricks and cranked to the longest cycle. Another set of tough sluggers from NYC.
Sleeping giant on Egyptian/Algerian imprint NASHAZPHONE from earlier in the year, “BASTET” by Alberto Boccardi & Stefano Pilla is comprised of two shut-out-the-sun compositions (in four parts) - dynamic, troubled, electro- acoustic mesh that carry distant, suffocated melodies and deep, subsonic BEEFCAKE. Screamer. 100% recommendation if you are into Taj Mahal Travellers / Scott Douglas Gordon.
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 Musikfame), 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.
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.
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.
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).
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'.
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.
Lost for words this week, so exhausted am I, poor flower. Probably no more exhausted than you. But still… exhausted. Busy week at home, busy week on the floor (fading sunlight, shopkeeper’s delight). Weekend self-destruct can’t come quik enuf.... and I trust for many of you it's already begun.
Thanks to everyone who played at our in-store last week, especially James Singer, Meg and Jim… enjoyed that a LOT. Roll on the next month, make the most of summer’s scrag-end eh, details soon. Oh and we're putting on a gig down the road at Cafe Oto on September 20th, date for your diary perhaps, will tell more next week.
The Low Company show returned to NTS earlier this week, in its new monthly Monday DRIVETIME slot. Kiran hosted this one (Kenny returns in September!), it includes new/forthcoming bits from Brannten Schnure, Gossiwor, A Happy Return, Enchante ++. You can listen here, the tracklist is missing a few bits but you’ll live.
Loads of new / still warm stuff in-store not mentioned below, check the site for more and if you're in London come see us.
Astonishingly beautiful private press LP from Mat Fowler, Aimée Henderson and their daughter Agnes Bell. Sketches of innocence and experience recorded before and after Agnes’s birth on January 27th, 2017, in their living room on Sprules Road. A Happy Return glows with the promise and optimism of new life but it is not a straightforward document of domestic bliss (can you imagine anything more insufferable?!)... I mean, it would be overstating the case to say that any meaningful/authentic celebration of life must also at some level be about the Other Thing, but let’s just say that this record feels fully engaged with the provisional and temporary nature of all things...our changing relationships to time, to our selves, to each other... the mysteries of the human chain!
Anyone familiar with Fowler’s collaborations with Kevin Cormack, BONS (also with Matthew Hunt) and Jam Money, will recognise his MO: poignant, evocative instrumental miniatures that seem to disperse almost as soon as they’ve arrived, but never before they’ve left their mark. Arcadian chamber-folk instrumentation (guitar, violin, woodwind, hand-percussion) meets hermetic, disorienting tape loops, spacey minimal synth textures and strange little ecologies of found-sound. With its mix of vérité and concrète, its taste for the uncanny and for strange juxtapositions, and its underlying collagistic, ambient pop impulse, A Happy Return variously recalls the work of Graham Lambkin, the melancholic pastoralia of Woo and Plinth, the bedsit economy of Young Marble Giants and Flaming Tunes, and the thrift-psych zone-outs of Pram and Movietone. Disquieting often, beautiful and haunting always.
A hand-numbered edition of 150 copies, housed in sleeve with cover painting by Aimee plus insert and postcards.
HEAVYWEIGHT retrospective of a band that truly deserve the oft-bandied assignation “underground” - even if it has (I mean it definitely has) become less and less of a FEELING and more and more of a marketing technique, a genre, ultimately just a stupid meaningless WORD. Ceramic Hobs have been stuck in reverse this whole time, hurling impulsive, liberating cut-ups of caustic punk, loner-psych, ADHD-drone (what!?), drug-addled folk (the one true kind) and bastard synth-pop. Would it be ludicrous to call them Britain's answer to Smegma?!
By all means follow the long and winding breadcrumb trail of limited CDrs, LPs and cassettes to get the truest and fullest fix of the Hobs - you certainly won't regret it. But butter me lazy when a collection Black Pool Legacy materialises, compiled and presented in spot-on fashion by a label that has worked with the band for nearly 20 years.
Lager-for-breakfast lyricism and deranged yet compassionate songwriting powers this unserviced roller-coaster, turning your stomach and cracking your ribs as it tosses you from the wide-eyed and spiralling, FX-drenched longing of 'Flower' to the stark recital at the end of 'Oz Oz Alice' (which paints a putrid picture that makes even the most eh, PROBLEMATIC Brainbombs skits feel as tame as an episode of Cash In The Attic).
While the band have touched on a plethora of subjects and issues throughout their career - kung fu disasters, chips and curry sauce, drug habits or common misconceptions of the mentally ill - arguably the only consistent point on the Hobs manifesto is encouraging people to feel like they can be themselves (uh-oh!), and THAT, surely is their most empowering, important, and ur-DIY statement.
"I can no more change my madness than I can my ethnicticy or my sexual orientation, so I am proud of who I am…”
'MON THE HOBS!
Double vinyl + (gawjus) gatefold sleeve and 12-page booklet with lyrics and madman scribblings aplenty.
Intense tone-poems and f**k-the-lot-of-you techno satori from Japanese duo Group A. A couple of tracks are arranged around pointedly sparse, broadly club-compatible rhythms, but A's work is at its most interesting when there's more of a jazz-informed looseness and dissolve at play, when things get a bit madder and a bit vaguer: the opening track, 'Disobeyed Flute' (hell hath no fury like a disobeyed flute, I'm told) is a mesmerising cyclical piece that feels like it was sprung from some excruciatingly rare and w****d-over Japanese pastoral ambient side (in a good way!), flying high on fumes of Toru Takemitsu, John Cameron's Kes score, and late '70s ECM; the garbled vocals, atonal whines and broken drum loops of 'The Devil To Play' fall somewhere between Fluxus auto-exorcism and dead-eyed minimal techno; and the suspenseful drones and distant percussion of 'Float' would sit nicely on the soundtrack of the art-house conspiracy thriller of your dreams. Lovely hand-assembled, screen-printed sleeve too. Edition of 300, these won't stick around long.
Swoit second 12” from Uncertainty Principle - their first, from FFT, still enjoying heavy praise round these parts - with new recruit LARRY firing four more thundering, microtonal techno torpedoes our way.
The A-side is packed with high-res, pressurised rave mayhem, the lead track 'systems_hyperthread' descending into a full blown wall-shaking tantrum halfway through that makes you feel like you’re in a sinking submarine, unsure whether your lungs or your eyeballs will burst first. Side B refers back to more of what we heard on the FFT 12” - its tracks maintaining that club urgency but altogether sparser, stealthier, more sophisticated, with the kind of committed VELOCITY, deep 'n deadly subs, and tension-ramping arrangements that stand out a mile from the swarm of weekly blah-techno offerings we have to wade through. Banging 12", big tip for fans of ZULI, N1L, Ø ++
More smoked-out hypno-house and fourth/next world fantasias from RAMZi, offering up the first release on her own newly minted Amor Fati imprint following those rightly celebrated Total Stasis, 12th Isle and Mood Hut sides. Apparently it's a journey "through the arcane archipelago that RAMZi calls home, a place where animals, children and wild spirits share territories and cooperate in harmony in their plight to protect these ancient islands from the ceaseless threat of the Great Grey Invasion." But don't let that put you off!
Yeah, as with her previous work, if you can suppress your kill-all-hippies instinct (I know it's hard, real hard), your tolerance will be rewarded: the Canadian producer's languid, quasi-tropical/Balearic 'scapes are richly imagined, lovingly rendered things, teeming with detail but somehow open and airy with it, and their third-eye-dazzling properties are unquestionable. Fetching wee bat on the sleeve too, looks like my Auntie Sue.
Not to be confused with the Swedish geezers who dress up like total bell-ends, THIS particular goat (SMALL G Y'HEAR) is an Osaka-based outfit led by one Kishiro Hino, who you've might've come across through his solo, techno-compatible (but wilfully skittish and grid-melting) rhythm experiments as YPY - album on Where To Now?, good 12" on Nous, etc. goat have been around a while apparently, but this is the first time their music has appeared on vinyl, and unsurprisingly it's EM who've made it happen. Skimming tracks from the band's two CD releases, it attempts to translate to the studio their intensely locked-on and dead-eyed live show - with sax, bass, guitar, and drums - and does a grand job. No wooly business, but rather driven forward by a fanatically precise and remorseless rhythm section that feels like some kind of a missing link between Moebius & Plank, Nissenenmondai and Konono No.1... tracks range from hectic, high-velocity outrock paroxysms that feel aligned to the oldest and best traditions of Cope-cornered Japanese psych, to more spacious and unmistakeably contemporary-sounding, dub-cratered excursions which - a bit like the space-time-warping mbalax of Ndagga and Ernestus - feel at once otherworldly and rootical. Stunning record!
High expectations for this label from Japan Blues - the pretty unambiguously named Les Editions Japonais. First release exceeds them. Kufuki is a Tokyo four-piece formed in 2010; Dodome is their attempt at electrifying - that is to say electronicizing - minyo, or traditional Japanese folk music. It’s interesting and immediate stuff - especially ‘Torobayashi’, Kufuki’s deft overhaul a song first released in the early 60s by Masao Suzuki, as part of the original wave of popularised minyo. Beseeching vocal (well, it SOUNDS beseeching…obviously I’ve no idea what he’s actually saying) is strapped to a tuff, Jammy-style rhythm with a FAT computerised bassline rolling off it. Japan Blues amplifies that digi-dub/dancehall flavour and dials down the vocal for his ‘Torobyashi In Dub’ version, coming over like Equiknoxx by way of Smith & Mighty. If you dug that recent Emerson Kitamura 12", you need this. Bangers!