This month has had its ups and downs for me and so I find that my taste in music has tended to change in direct proportion to what’s going on at the time. I’ve not been listening much new stuff just recently, partly because there’s been not much released during August that has taken my fancy. Personally speaking, my countdown is ticking for the end of September which is when new LPs from Electric Wizard and Aphex Twin arrive – I’m more than a little excited! And so, apart from one current release, this month’s selection is culled from the depths of the labyrinthine archive that is my music library. Here goes;
Demdike Stare – Testpressing#006
2014 – Modern Love
Last month I listed two Demdike Stare releases which had been taking up a large portion of my listening time and a month later, here comes another 12” hot on their heels. This is instalment number 6 in the Testpressing series and I can’t help wondering how many more of these sterling slabs of wax will be issued. The brilliantly titled ’40 Years Under The Cosh’ starts proceedings with a looped vocal sample and disjointed drum machines before building to a percussive crescendo midway. Flipside track ‘Frontin’ offers no easy way in with it’s jarring raw electronic blasts before setting up a steady rhythmic pulse around which a smear of percussion lurks underpinned by stuttering synths. The track is actually very sparsely constructed like the Testpressing series a whole but works brilliantly. It’s been refreshing to hear Sean Canty and Miles Whitaker turn their subversive attentions to other musical forms and I hope this series yields a few more releases.
Guitar Wolf – Loverock
2004 – Narnack Records
Three leather & shades clad Japanese rebels with a penchant for scuzzed up punk turn in a true masterpiece of downright filthy garage trash rock ’n’ roll. This is the album to me which best personifies their sound – fast, raw, loud and as distorted as hell. The vocals are all sung in Japanese and so impossible to understand (unless you’re Japanese of course!) but that takes nothing away from these seventeen guitar troubling, adrenaline soaked tunes. No individual track descriptions are required at this point, I’m sure you’ll have made your mind up if this is your bag already but with a discography consisting of over a dozen LPs there’s plenty to go at if you’re interested. Get filthy and sweaty with Guitar Wolf.
Boris – Akuma No Uta
2003 – Diwphalanx Records
After spending most of last month enjoying the latest offering from Boris I decided one evening in a fit of nostalgia to play my first bought and still favourite LP by the band. Akuma No Uta is a perfectly structured LP starting with the doomy guitar of opener ‘Introduction’ which segues into a pair of brief speedball freakouts. The centrepiece of the album is Naki Kyoku which begins with gently rippling guitar then builds into a colossal solo from Wata before belting home with all guns blazing. The album concludes with two heavy as fuck sludge jams – thirty nine minutes all told, done. Extra points are awarded for the cover which of course brilliantly apes the LP Bryter Layter by Nick Drake – double necked guitar and all.
Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza – The Feed-Back
1970 – RCA Italiana
I recently got a chance to replace a poor quality vinyl rip I owned with a lossless version of this album and so it’s found its way into heavy rotation this past month after too long an interval. The Group (as they were often referred to outside Italy) was basically a free improv collective featuring movie soundtrack maestro Ennio Morricone on trumpet. This is the kind of LP which when played polarises a room of people instantly – usually everyone complaining loudly before I have to reluctantly turn it off! It’s stuffed with some fine improvisation from all players but the key to this album’s brilliance is the addition of a drummer who lays down the kind of solid, funky break beats that would have crate diggers in tears. My only gripe here is the brevity of the album, just three tracks are included with a total running time of only twenty seven minutes. It’s also virtually impossible to track down the vinyl version, copies change hands for silly money although a little Google-Fu may well pay dividends.
Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album
1996 – Warp Records
And so finally Mr Richard D. James, The Aphex Twin himself has seen fit to release his first LP in thirteen long years come September 22nd. Cheers Rich, seriously what kept you? in honour of this truly momentous occasion I have been playing one of my personal back catalogue favourites to death all week. If you don’t know what this album sounds like already then shame on you, go and buy it at once and revel in its twisted brilliance. It somehow manages to shoehorn a bin bag full of drill ’n’ bass rhythms, squelchy acid licks, sinisterly pitched vocal snippets, orchestral flourishes and as many heart rending melodies as you could possibly shake a very large stick at. Oh, and anyone who can make a cracking tune using a jew’s harp, slide whistle and a pipe organ as on the last track ‘Logon Rock Witch’ fully deserves the epithet of genius in my book. My ears are now fully open Mr James, don’t let me down!
Album(s) Of The Month – August
Stars Of The Lid – Back Catalogue
1995 to 2007 – Various labels
Last year I worked from home for a period of several months and so decided to create a number of playlists for use during such times. One of these playlists was to contain a favourite few albums by Texan duo Stars Of The Lid but I couldn’t honestly decide which to choose and so I included all nine of their LPs. As I mentioned above, I’ve had a funny old month and so I decided to revisit this playlist after a few sleepless nights. It’s been playing pretty much constantly ever since. So what is it about this band that compels me to happily sit through the eleven hours of music which makes up their back catalogue time and time again? It’s hard to adequately explain without resorting to cliche and clumsy metaphor but simply put they have a deeply calming, all enveloping effect on me which I utterly lose myself in. This is not lazy “ambient” music – far from it. Tracks such as ’Tape Hiss Makes Me Happy’ from their 1996 debut album Music For Nitrous Oxide has a definite sinister edge to it as does ‘The Artificial Pine’ from The Ballasted Orchestra amongst others. The later albums incorporate sparse orchestral elements amongst the expansive drones and sometimes fleetingly put me in mind of contemporary Eastern European composer Arvo Part. Whichever album I choose to start with I always end up playing the rest of the list – it’s even playing as I type these notes. So, I’m afraid I’ve had to nominate nine records this month because one just won’t do, normal service will be reserved in September! In The Meanwhile do your ears a favour and buy at least one of these life-affirming albums, you’ll thank yourself in the end. This truly is massively recommended listening.
Stars Of The Lid Back Catalogue;
1996 – Music For Nitrous Oxide
1996 – Gravitational Pull Vs. The Desire For An Aquatic Life
1997 – The Ballasted Orchestra
1998 – Maneuvering The Nocturnal Hum
1998 – Per Aspera Ad Astra
1999 – Avec Laudenum
2001 – The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid
2007 – Carte De Visite (Tour release only)
2007 – Stars Of The Lid And Their Refinement Of The Decline