Playing Records – July 2014

Demdike Stare – Empirical Research / Testpressing#005
2014 – Demdike Stare / Modern Love

Demdike Stare - Empirical Research

Demdike Stare - Testpressing#005

There surely is no rest for the wicked as the mighty Demdike Stare prove with this incredible double-header of releases. First off, another mixtape following on the heels of last year’s tremendous Post Collapse set. Empirical Research begins with grating electronics and chanting before weaving through 70 minutes of dark audio ritual and sonic juxtapositions where lost foreign film themes and music concrete rub shoulders with crackling ambient outerludes and all manner of sonic detritus from the past forty years or so. Canty and Whittaker serve up another brilliantly curated, molasses thick stew of sounds from their seemingly bottomless crates to stunning effect. Then comes the latest in their series of test pressing 12’s, number 5 to be precise. A side Procrastination is all shuddering machine gun beats, blunted bass hits and whiplash sound effects whereas B side Past Majesty pits distorted guitar chops against post punk drums then rachets up into a lop-sided, jerking pogo of a track before being swallowed whole by guitars. Incredible stuff. There’s no wonder Demdike Stare are one of my favourite bands – endlessly inventive and refusing to be shackled by either convention or the latest sound.

Time Attendant – Bloodhounds
2014 – Exotic Pylon

Time Attendant - Blood Hounds

Paul Snowden is a painter and artist, he also makes music under the alias of Time Attendant. I was lucky to pick up a copy of his Tournaments EP a few years ago and was hooked by the feverish experimentation spilling across its four tracks. Here, Snowden builds on the same template of electronics and skittering beats but over a longer running time. Ermine Fever is awash with reverb, Inky’s Pitch has a skeletal, dubwise feel to it and Fuchsia Circles builds to a bleeping, droning crescendo midway which ends in a slightly John Carpenter-esque wash of synths. Excellent first full length release from a definite name to watch.

Vatican Shadow – Death Is Unity With God
2014 – Hospital Productions

Vatican Shadow - Death Is Unity With God

I’ve spent a lot of time during July with this behemoth of a release – a six cassette box set no less – and still feel that I am just scratching the surface of its twenty tracks. Dominick Fernow has crafted a set which takes in his darkest Al Qaeda fantasies and incorporates the Waco siege for good measure. Like all Vatican Shadow releases, the track titles are indicators as to where Fernow’s paranoid visions are focussed at the time of recording. The first tape is extremely ambient and almost silent, building slowly in burning intensity like the siege itself before all hell breaks loose on the following cassette. Koresh Babylon and Texarkana Resistance both feature relentless, thundering drum loops which threaten to engulf the tracks completely. The rest of the set then moves into a hazy, more measured sound as tracks mirror the heat and tension of the Branch Davidian compound. Shadows On The Courthouse Wall could almost be a Boards Of Canada track with it’s sheen of ferric distortion and billowing synths. There’s almost too much here to properly take in during a single sitting and so I’ve been listening to it in smaller parts. This is an epic, widescreen kind of release which demands a much larger investment of time to sit through than most albums. I have to say that it amply rewards such an investment though and is a brilliantly structured and tense listen throughout.

Mordant Music – Travelogues 14: Stranger Ohm The Shore
2014 – Mordant Music

Mordant Music - Travelogues 14 Stranger Ohm The Shore

After some contact with the good Baron Mordant earlier this month, I was sent a pre-release zip file containing the next three instalments of Mordant Music’s rather excellent Travelogues series. This series started in 2008 and now stands at number fifteen, each part being a single ten minute sound-scape. Although I’ve enjoyed each of the three new Travelogues, I keep returning to number fourteen for a replay. The track is based around Acker Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore and features tiny snippets of music, string flourishes and Bilk’s voice in apparent interview wrapped up in a reverb heavy cloud of audio effects. It’s simple but incredibly effective and never seems to last a full ten minutes before it ends. Big thanks to Baron Mordant for this sneak preview.

Boris – Noise
2014 – Sargent House

Boris - Noise

Japanese three piece Boris have released many LPs during their career and dipped their toes into several different genre types on the way. This is their first album in three years and is, by the band’s own admission a consolidation and streamlining of their many facetted sound. First track Melody has a slight shoegaze feel to it whereas following track Vanilla cranks up the speed and throws on the riffs for good measure. Heavy Rain brings the doom amid crashing drums and rumbling guitars but still maintains a lightness of mood through its use of ethereal vocals. But the centrepiece of the whole album is undoubtedly the nineteen minute Angel which begins with chiming guitars and pulsing toms before breaking open into massive riffage and a strafing lead guitar solo. The track then gradually turns full circle back to the sound of the opening guitar and toms. There’s still time for a little thrash before the LP ends with Quicksilver which plays out at a ferocious speed ending followed by a short downtuned doom coda. Boris have definitely nailed it with this release, an album of gear changes and stylistic differences which gel perfectly into a coherent whole during its hour long running time.

Album Of The Month – July

Woodbines & Spiders – W&S
2014 – Geophonic Audio Systems

Woodbines & Spiders - W&S

When I heard that this album was about to be released, I was pretty excited to hear it as I’m a big fan of both The Advisory Circle and The Moon Wiring Club, this being a long fermented collaboration between Jon Brooks and Ian Hodgson. If like me you’re an aficionado of the output of either Brooks or Hodgson then you’ll love this fine LP of decaying synths and spectral electronics. The whole album is a cocoon of worn out sounds, disembodied voices and strangely terrifying slo-mo horror-scapes – the stuff of bleak rural daydreams amongst crumbling old farm houses. A cough, knocking at the door, ringing telephone, creaking timber, all of these familiar sounds are imbued with a different grimy pallor in this new setting. Slow Accident and Aye In The Sky both use musty synth arpeggios but are no less odd due to the shifting washes of sound which cloak them like mist. There are also two longer pieces – Regression Suite and Gas suite, both of which are around ten minutes in length. They both feature more ghostly sounds and warped voices although Gas Suite is lighter in tone than the more disturbing Regression suite with it’s disorienting web of slippery tape effects and growlingly slow spoken word interludes. Ambient this is not! In all, this is a wonderfully realised album which tugs at the very edges of perceived normality with its inherent strangeness and odd construction of bizarre sounds which frankly, I can’t get enough of.