Thursday, May 12, 2016

MARC MOULIN


This previously-unheard-of gem from 1975 has really taken my fancy the last 6 months. Its name is Sam' Suffy. Original copies will likely put you in the poor house, but relax, oh collector-dork, there is a very nice reissue on the Music On Vinyl label (do your Googling, I'm not here to promote their wares). Marc Moulin is an interesting cat whose discography I was woefully ignorant of just a year ago. He passed away in 2008, but was somewhat of an identity in his homeland of Belgium. Along with his sporadic solo career, he was a member of three crucial Belgian groups in the 1970s: Placebo, the jazz fusion outfit who released three excellent albums in the first half of that decade (and are obviously not to be confused with those Limey nudniks of the same name); Aksak Maboul, who were an interesting avant-rock band linked up with Henry Cow and the RIO crowd in the late '70s, and one whose name can be found in the infamous Nurse With Wound List; and Telex, the synth-pop band of the '70s/'80s who were, if need be, the Belgian equivalent of Kraftwerk and even had a few minor hits down here at the time. On top of that, he was a renowned journalist and broadcaster who also released several 'jazz' albums on the Blue Note label. This week's candidate for Renaissance Man? I'll vote for him.

Here's a Placebo cut.



And a Telex number.



Telex performing at the 1980 Eurovision contest.



Some choice Aksak Maboul.



A number of from his Sam' Suffy LP.



And another...



Where does Marc Moulin's Sam' Suffy fit within the musical universe? It is nominally a 'jazz-fusion' recording (I've learnt not to be afraid of throwing around such a term: there is good fusion and there is plenty of bad fusion). In fact you might even call it proto acid-jazz or proto trip-hop and all other manner of frightening names. To my ears it's quite a brain-bending mix of cosmic jazz-rock, ambient and lounge sounds, a more laid-back, concise take on the classic Bitches Brew sound, if you will. If you must. Listen to all of the above. It was a life well lived.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

SOULED AMERICAN



Another unexpected musical detour which has taken my fancy the past 6 months. I recall when Souled American were fairly active in the late '80s/early '90s, and their existence didn't register beyond a blip on the radar. There was enough hope from someone somewhere that they would amount to more than a hill o' beans, since a couple of their LPs were even licensed here in Australia (to Festival Records - though I'm assuming that was possibly due more to a deal between the US Rough Trade office and Festival: if you're going to distribute our label, then all priorities get a local release).

So anyway, Souled American existed from roughly the mid '80s until the mid '90s and are often considered pioneers in the alt-country genre. But you're allowed to like them regardless. My ears were originally piqued to the idea of there being something curious about the band when the Tumult label reissued their first four albums as a 4CD set back in 1999. Tumult was/is owned and operated by Andee Connors, who also happens to be a co-owner of Aquarius Records in San Francisco. Its roster usually hovers around the musical realms of black metal/stoner/doom/punk/noise and other ear-bleeding music forms. But Souled American, a largely forgotten countrified indie band from Chicago, were so highly regarded by Andee (one of his favourite bands of all time!) that he felt compelled to piss money into the wind and release a goddamn 4CD box set by a band few people gave a shit about in the first place. Well, that box set sold out years ago and actually goes for a bit of money now, so I guess some must have caught on. I was inspired to investigate their wares by that situation, and also because their 5th and 6th albums - which were released in 1994 and 1997, respectively, and only in Germany - happened to be included in this list of Jim O'Rourke's favourite music (it's an approximate list, one collated via some diligent research, and a fascinating buyers' guide, if you care).



I have managed to tumble across vinyl copies of their first two LPs: 1988's Fe and '89's Flubber, both in such mint condition at a suburban secondhand barn that I figure the original owners never even gave 'em a chance (fair enough - few did), and both of which are Australian editions. I don't recall the band ever getting airplay down here on community radio at the time; in fact, I don't recall a goddamn ripple, so I'll make the wild assumption that most copies were trashed upon marketplace failure. Certainly the US branch of Rough Trade wasn't a particularly exciting place to be, musically, during this era, and in fact it was a terrible place to be by 1992, when it went bust and burnt a number of its artists. It managed to released some fine recordings from Galaxie 500, but other than that, the only release which springs to mind is one of the Butthole Surfers' worst (1990's Pioughd). And in amongst this was the Great White Hope of college radio at the time. The obi strip on my copy has a quote from some such putz which compares 'em to the Violent Femmes, Meat Puppets and Camper Van Beethoven (whom they toured with). OK... But really, if you dig deeper, and if you give them time, Souled American had layers of sound beyond the obvious to offer.



Their music was loose, disjointed and only became more so over their career. Both Fe and Flubber  as do all their recordings - feature the bass playing of Joe Adduci, and it's this instrument and the way it's played which really adds to their sound. Their music is often sparse with drawled, stoned-sounding vocals, and amidst this is Adduci's clunking, almost funky six-string bass work (on a Fender VI). Now, I don't mean to say that his bass playing is 'funky' like the guy is slapping and popping to within an inch of your sanity, but there are big, abrupt and quite intrusive bass notes throughout which add a new and rather peculiar dimension to their music. Like two of my other favourite bands of the era - Slovenly and The Scene Is Now - repeated listens to Souled American show them to be a deceptive band at first listen, enveloping their material with all kinds of non-standard extras which add extra layers to their songs. There is a definite non genericus element to their music which has had me coming back for more.




Now, the other interesting aspect to Souled American is this: they released two more albums on Rough Trade - 1990's Around The Horn and 1992's Sonny (neither of which I've procured yet) - both of which sold less than the previous two (the band's history was one of declining sales), before regrouping mostly sans-drummer for 1994's Frozen and 1997's Notes Campfire. Of the latter two, I have the former and not the latter. Got me? These last two, as noted, were only released in Germany on the Moll Tontrager label, which I guess hints at their fortunes falling even further. But they are equally excellent, if not more so. By the time of Frozen, their music had become a gooey sprawl, almost formless. Drawled vocals, guitar notes flying slowly at whim, those meaty bass notes giving an anchor when there's little to no percussion to be heard. It is truly a beautiful thing to behold. A decade prior, the band was pipped and primed to be the latest College Rock Sensation, and somehow it came to this. And that's not a bad thing, because unlike most Great White Hopes of 1980s college radio, you'd actually still want to listen to Souled American, whereas most you'd never want to hear at all. I need to fill in the gaps, of course, but having now ensconced myself in various areas of their discography, I'm convinced they were a band well worth giving a shit about.




Monday, May 02, 2016

GOD BULLIES. YES, THE FUCKING GOD BULLIES.


It's been some time. There are several explanations, none of which are particularly interesting. It's guilt which brings me back to this blog. Not Catholic guilt... perhaps it's Protestant Work Ethic Guilt: the sense that I should be doing something creative, laying my thoughts onto screen for no other reason than pure selfishness (and audience adulation, let's face it). But here I am. I hope your 2016 has been kind to you thus far. It has been very gentle with me., and that is sweet relief.

I haven't really ever written about this on the blog before - frankly, because it's none of your damn business - but the story may be a reasonable segue way into music open for discussion. So, for the past 8 months I have been a partner in a record store in Melbourne: Round And Round Records in Brunswick. When I left my previous position at a record company last July - walked out that damn door - I was left with my dick in the breeze, so to speak, and no idea what to do. My two good friends who owned/operated the shop - my favourite musical retail outlet in Melbourne, I should add - offered me a stake in the business, and I took it.  There are many other details to add, but this is not a confessional. I am happy, scraping a living from it and it would be nice if you'd drop on by. My head is in a very good place, and I'd like to use this opportunity to get more regularly, uh, 'creative'.

The shop is a mix of 50/50 new and secondhand vinyl; there was a time when it sold CDs (and even DVDs!), but since at some point many in the general public decided they didn't want such things, those formats were stripped from the shelves. The market did the talking, although we (or at least I!) remain unfazed regarding musical formats, as for myself, the music itself is really the only thing worth discussing.

So, approximately 6 weeks ago, an old friend of mine came in and sold off a box of old records. I've known this gent for roughly 15 years, used to play in bands with him and generally know his taste in music. It was a big pile of punk/goth/noise goodness, and right in the pile was, gulp, two LPs by God Bullies. I hadn't given them much thought since Bill Clinton was President, but I was happy to purchase them for the shop, figuring the Great Grunge Revival was/is right around the corner and that some 40-something putz with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a head full of worry would grab them, toot sweet. The Great Grunge Revival is yet to hit, of course, but in the meantime, I wound up purchasing the two LPs in question, and hopefully that's the strangest fucking thing I do all year.

I should clarify here: I rarely ever take home secondhand LPs from the store, for two simple reasons - 1) It makes sense that the good secondhand arrivals should hit the shelves for the customers and not for my own gratification at home; and 2) I need more records like I need a hole in the head. But in this case, something odd happened. I kind of laughed when the records first arrived: Dog Show?! Fuck! I bought that when I was 18 and sold it by the time I was 25! The late '80s/early '90s... they could be a cruel period. Yes, I do recall buying Dog Show when I was 18 and being distinctly under-impressed by it, although I desperately wanted to like it, given the good press it had received and its label Amphetamine Reptile's then-rep (this is 1990, folks) as one of the world's great taste-making recording imprints. Its mixture of sample-heavy clunk-rock with thin production and tastelessly metallic guitar sheen left me colder than a fuckin' iceberg and I dismissed it as a whole lotta hype about nothing much at all.

Despite this questionable history with its wares, I found myself, over the ensuing weeks, giving them some serious air time when I was in the shop. My workmate found its hilarious, if perhaps a bit disconcerting. He did, at the very least, promise me that if a totally boss collection of Surgery and Chokebore LPs came in, I could get first dibs. I felt a curious sense of nostalgia for a record I thought was a steaming pile of shit 25 years ago. And I haven't even mentioned my fondness for their debut full-length, also in the secondhand pile, Mamawombwomb, which I was giving similar airing on the stereo system. It came to be that no one bought them in the (mere) three weeks I gave them shelf space - and in fact no one paid any interest in them whatsoever - and I decided I would purchase them and give them a home myself. It was probably some point around here when I lost my mind.


God Bullies formed in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the mid '80s, and released four LPs before splitting in the mid '90s. The last, Kill The King, was released in 1994 on the Alternative Tentacles label, while War On Everybody from 1991 was similarly released on the AmRep label and for me ranks as their best (though I don't own the thing - I streamed it via a certain platform [take a wild fuckin' guess]). Their guitarist was David B. Livingstone, who also happened to be an editor/published of Your Flesh magazine (one of the better post-Forced Exposure rant mags of its day) and indie band booker in the midwest. Their singer was 'crazy man', Mike Hard. I don't know much about Mike except he was apparently 'craazee' in a rock-singer kinda way, but, you know, everyone was back in the day. There's this clip here you can see, which has the band in full flight, but I'd recommend you don't watch it, if you're at all partial and/or curious about the band. I know, it's so tempting, but honestly, it's a hamfisted, overcooked semi-embarrassment which looks like a band trying too hard. Correct me if I'm wrong, dear readers, but quarter of a century later, from the comfort of the other side of the world, it looks like a parody of a grunge-era noise-rock band. I'm sticking to the audio side of things.


Mamawombwomb goes lighter on the sampling and possesses much better production than Dog Show, and it's the stronger of the two. If I was to dumb it down to a catch-phrase, and you know I will, I'd say that they approximate some sort of meeting point twixt the Melvins, Buttholes and Killdozer. From the first, there's the rifferama; from the second, the psychedelic 'crazy' angle; and from the latter, a thick slice of midwestern sludge. I think the Melvins, Buttholes and Killdozer are all streets ahead of God Bullies in terms of musical, innovative and creative endeavours, of course, which might prompt the question - why fucking bother? - and I can't really answer that. Why bother getting out of bed every day? I don't know. Maybe there's more God Bullies records to buy. Overcome with a sense of nostalgia from when I was young, dumb and full of cu- hope for the world? That's a distinct possibility. No, it's a probability. But there remains those two LPs: Mamawombwomb and Dog Show. I like 'em. The clunkiness and thin production of Dog Show don't grate me like they used to. Instead, what I hear is a basement-level midwestern shit-rock which I'm giving a B+. Right now, that's good enough.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

GLENN PHILLIPS - Lost At Sea 2LP


Somehow or other, this obscure gem, now reissued c/o Feeding Tube/Shagrat for the non-masses, has escaped my knowledge base until the last few weeks, and I feel like a putz for my ignorance. It's a beautiful thing.

Guitarist Glenn Phillips has an interesting history. For one, he played guitar on one of my fave obscuro discs of all time - Hampton Grease Band's gonzo 2LP epic, Music To Eat. Originally released in 1971, it completely tanked in the marketplace but found itself a cult audience later on, with even Steven Stapleton listing him in the infamous Nurse With Wound list. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, US of A, they were loved by Frank Zappa and landed bills with the likes of the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead (all fairly good indications of their sound), but their freeform brand of psychedelic southern boogie rock never made a dent, and for many years it was Columbia's second-worst-selling album of all time. Columbia actually did reissue it as a nicely-packaged 2CD set in the mid '90s - the edition I have, soon deleted - and I believe the story behind that reissue is something along the lines of Pearl Jam's manager being such a huge fan of the album (and at this stage PJ had sold a zillion records and had a fair amount of pull at the label) that it was rereleased on his wishes by a thoroughly disinterested label. Anyway! The sound of HGB veered towards the orbit of Zappa/Beefheart with the jamming tendencies of the Grateful Dead and the southern roots twang of the Allmans or Little Feat (whom he played with). Since I LOVE all of the above, that recipe sounds mighty fine to me. You'll have to decide for yourself whether you give a shit or not.

Which brings us to Glenn Phillips' Lost At Sea 2LP from 1975. After the band dissolved in the early '70s, Phillips jammed around with buddies, working up a repertoire, before deciding to lay tracks to tape and simply release a set of recordings himself. He formed SnowStar Records and released Lost At Sea in a limited fashion mid decade and the ever-curious tastemaker John Peel got on board and began giving it a hiding on his radio show. Stranger things have happened, but this one is curious: Richard Branson became a big fan, flew Phillips over (staying at Mike Oldfield's place!) to the UK and released an edition of the set on Virgin and the rest is history. Lost At Sea was never a commercial big deal in Ol' Blighty, though it had the critics raving and was quite the 'head' disc for avant-rockers and perhaps many waiting around for punk to hit town. Phillips has since released quite a few solo efforts since (even one on SST in 1987, Elevation, when the label was spewing out discs by Henry Kaiser, Fred Frith et al in Ginn's belief that avant-guitar music was where it's at. People laughed, but I think he made some great A & R decisions) and is the guy who perennially winds up in Guitar Player mag as a dude of 'taste', but let's quickly discuss the sounds of Lost At Sea...

Featuring some of his pals from the 'Grease Band days, Lost At Sea has a loose backing group which, particularly when Phillips' guitar is screeching up a storm, is set back a bit in the mix but has a loose-as-a-goose jam-band vibe very much like Live/Dead-period 'Dead with a bit of early '70s Zappa thrown in (Waka/Jawaka/Zoot Allures period), but it really is Phillips' guitar which makes the record. The backing music is exactly that: they're there to showcase him. Such a description may have one thinking that this must be a Satriani-style listening punishment, a total showoff for the main star, but it's not the case. The music provides the dynamics for Phillips to get really outward bound, and there's a ton of that onboard. Parts of this have me thinking of Television or Robert Fripp, which, since I've always held the view that TV basically sound like King Crimson meets the 'Dead (not a bad place to be, so don't think I'm besmirching them), it all comes together perfectly. There are moments when Phillips really scorches, cutting loose in a Pete Cosey/Sonny Sharrock/Henry Kaiser mold, so outre it has me wondering what the hell Sir Branson was thinking, but hey, those were different times.

Lost At Sea, as of the 1st of January 2016, gets my vote as one of the great rediscoveries of the previous 12 months. Housed in a tip-on gatefold sleeve replicating the DIY aesthetics of the original (with a few extra liners on top), the package and the tunes within are hard to beat. Get up with it.


Friday, December 25, 2015

2015, please exit the building

What a year it's been. Not a good one, mind you, but it has been a whole year, mostly of utter pain and misery, but I don't care to dwell on the dark stuff. These past few months, things are definitely looking up, and in 2016, I have plans, I tells ya: PLANS.

In the meantime, there was the year in music. Unlike many years of yore, in 2016 I concentrated on music of the here and now. I wasn't so much interested in years gone by, as at this stage in history I would say that the music being created right NOW is as good, if not better, than that which came before it. And I mean that. In that spirit, here is a listing of my Top 20 Release Of 2016, in no particular order, with an ever-so-brief description of each. Read it. Weep...


BRIAN ELLIS GROUP - Escondido Sessions LP
 Covered here recently. Gonzoid psychedelic jazz fusion from this Californian and his band. In the realm of Sun Ra meets Soft Machine or thereabouts. That means it's good.

MY DISCO - Severe LP/CD
First album in 5 years from these local yokels. I saw them a number of times in their early days and dismissed them as Albini copyists. They were. But they've obviously found themselves in the interim period, as this is a beautifully stark, abstract 'rock' album, musically tipping the hat to the likes of Flowers Of Romance-era PiL and This Heat, but inhabiting its own world. Excellent.

THE HIEROPHANTS - Parallax Error LP
More local yokels. Geelong/Melbourne folk. Links to Ausmuteants and many others. Devo worship meets Aussie garage punk. That's what it is. It's great, and often a whole lot better.

POWER - Electric Glitter Boogie LP
Debut LP from this much-talked-about loved/loathed trio, and again, they're locals. I've tried to ignore the hype and simply enjoy the album for what it is, which is balls-out boogie-punk indebted to the Coloured Balls and early X. Great songs, nice package, and the angular, Ginn-like guitar workouts obviously win my approval.

JIM O'ROURKE - Simple Songs LP/CD
Again, covered here semi-recently. Egghead yacht-rock. This moved my heart and loins.

PRIMITIVE MOTION - Pulsating Time Fibre LP
Brisbane duo on the Bedroom Suck label. Somewhere twixt Cluster, Silver Apples and a no-fi version of Stereolab reside Primitive  Motion. Many short songs on the first side; few long songs on the flip. Both sides work.

FUZZ - II 2LP/CD
The second - duh - effort from this 'power trio' (I could hardly call them anything else) featuring the prolific (but rather good, I might add) Ty Segall on drums. Fuzz opt for a basic Blue Cheer/Black Sabbath realm of possibilities and add a little early Mudhoney-style grunge to the proceedings, which means they're not rewriting the songbook of rock as we know it, but it doesn't always require a redraft. This achieves what it aims for and everyone goes home happy.

TOTALLY MILD - Down Time LP/CD
Melbourne-based - my, so much hometown pride! - quartet, again on the Bedroom Suck label, who delve into a kind of featherweight, floating indie-rock with a Twin Peaks sheen. It's actually better than that.

THE NECKS - Vertigo LP/CD
Latest and not the greatest from Australia's finest, which by no means is meant to imply it's a weak release. For myself it's the best album they've done since Silverwater, which means something or other.

WAND - 1,000 Days LP/CD
The latest and the greatest from LA's Wand. They've got a few albums out on the In The Red and God? labels; this one is on Drag City and is most definitely one of my faves of the year. They have associations with Ty Segall (I think members of his band are in it, but I could be wrong. You Google it - I couldn't be bothered). What is important is that Wand crank out an ace brew of psychedelic/glam/acid-folk PUNK ROCK which has me thinking of Teen Babes-era Redd Kross through a cosmic Syd Barrett looking glass. Nothing to sneeze at, so don't. It's fucking magnificent.
 
WEATHER STATION - Loyalty LP/CD
Canadian folk-rock. Yes, Canadian folk-rock. I covered this recently. It just gets better and better.

JAMES ELKINGTON & NATHAN SALSBURG - Ambsace LP/CD
Another one on the Paradise Of Bachelors label, also responsible for the releases above and below, which I guess makes it Label Of The Year. Duel guitar picking. There's obviously a Fahey influence, but the sounds they create add up to a whole lot more than that. Sublime, beautiful, worthy of repeated spins. Even the Smiths cover doesn't churn my stomach.

PROMISED LAND SOUND - For Use And Delight LP/CD
Byrds/Dead worship. Special guest: Steve Gunn. 'Americana' which again doesn't make me want to vomit in my mouth. Uncut probably loves it. Doesn't mean you can't.

VHOL - Deeper Than Sky CD
 Demonic space-metal from San Francisco on the Profound Lore label. Discharge meets Voivod.

ROYAL HEADACHE - High LP/CD
Second album from Sydney's most likely - as for what they're most likely to do (possibly implode), you may have to ask them. Ultra-melodic soul-review garage punk with none of the 'Hey now, can I get a witness!' cliches. So, so good. The Kids are right.

JONAS MUNK - Absorb/Fabric/Cascade LP
Causa Sui's Jonas Munk - he and the label he co-runs, El Paraiso - was covered here recently. Electronic kraut dementia, repetitive grooves, cosmic soul.

DICK DIVER - Melbourne, Florida LP/CD
Third victorious release from 'Melbourne's own' Dick Diver. The Go-Betweens don't thrill me much, although many of their contemporary admirers do.

UNCLE ACID - Night Creeper 2LP/CD
Previously or otherwise known as Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. English doom crew on the Rise Above label who emit a melodic brand of Sabbath-infused rock which possesses a certain Satanic aura but still enough upbeat tempos and catchy riffs to make me want to 'party'. Good-time rock 'n' roll.

SAMMAL - Myrskyvaroitus LP/CD
Contemporary psych/prog from Finland. They chew up a slew of their homeland's music from yesteryear - perhaps in the same manner as Sweden's Dungen - although both bands really don't sound too alike. Sammal don't have the hooks of Dungen, and the Finnish vocals can take a bit of getting used to (no offense to the good people of Finland, but your native tongue can be slightly abrasive on our English-speaking ears), but the music - THE MUSIC - is special. On the excellent Svart label - well worth investigating.

SUNN O))) - Kannon LP/CD
The latest from this doom crew, a band I thought had jumped the horse a number of years ago with that weak Boris collaboration and the underwhelming Monoloiths and Dimensions set which proceeeded it (I have since revisited the latter and found it's much more agreeable than I originally considered it to be). Kannon is an anomaly in Sunn O)))'s catalogue: short and sweet, a 35-minute single LP with three songs. It's the best thing they've done since Black One.

Over. Out.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

There's a towering pile of CDs next to my stereo - hell yeah, I still play 'em - and here's me grabbing half a dozen of them and making sense of them in as brief a manner as I can. Just for you.


1976 album from ex-Oregon and future Codona sitar player (sitarist?), Colin Walcott. He's a bald guy with frizzy hair on the side who kinda looked like a young Larry David - not a beatnik ethno-jazz world-beater in the looks dept. - but he was part and parcel of a few choice sides in his time. Oregon generally bore me - and I have actually given most of their allegedly 'good' early rekkids a spin - though as I have documented here before in heavy verbiage, the three records he recorded as part of the trio Codona on the ECM label ca. 1978 - '82 still stand as my fave recordings on the label. And if you know me, you'll possibly also be aware of the fact that I possess a tragically near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the label (I was actually its 'manager' down here for a number of years) and hold it in high esteem. So what's Cloud Dance? It's Walcott's first 'solo' album, originally released in 1976 - although of course it is merely him as leader playing in a quartet. A fine record it be, too, otherwise it wouldn't be sittin' pretty next to the player waiting for a semi-regular spin.
 As you can see from the cover, he has some ace players up his sleeve to help him out: Holland on bass, DeJohnette on percussion and Abercrombie on guitar. Were I to describe as it 'ethno-fusion', you may be tempted to vomit in your mouth, so let's just keep it tasteful, huh? It's loose, it's free-flowing, but I won't call it 'jazz', since it does not resemble it to these tin ears. It's a quartet of white westerners playing 'world music' very well. Even cosmically, you might say. '70s 'head music' from an unlikely source.


Should you require something stupidly heavily, or something simply heavily stupid, there's always Scorn's debut player from 1992, Vae Solis. At this juncture, Scorn was two ex-Napalm Death players: moustachio'd skinsman, Mick Harris and Nic Bullen, who had sung for Napalm Death in their early days and indeed yelled on the first side of their debut, Scum. Actually, this lineup is the same as the A side of Scum (it was apparently recorded as a duo), but Scorn and Vae Solis are a different beast. I never went nuts for the early Earache stable of noise back in the day - though I will admit to liking the first couple of Napalm and Carcass discs, Godflesh's Streetcleaner and this album in question - but as I creak into the depths of middle-aged patheticness, I will confess to an increasing fondness for what the label did back in its early days before it all turned to shit (and turned to shit it has - the label has been an utter embarrassment for nigh on two decades now). Lately it's been Cathedral's debut and Morbid Angel's first few Satan-fuelled stabs at recorded glory. In my weaker moments, I crank up a bit of Bolt Thrower. Next week it could be Nocturnus or Confessor: let's just see where the day takes us, huh? Back to Scorn... after a couple of discs, Bullen left the duo, making it a solo project for Harris. There's some great albums in this phase of the band, too (try Ellipsis and especially Gyral), though the sound is much more in a wordless, minimal ambient dub vein. For Vae Solis, it's all about HEAVY, which means this sounds like a more organic version of Godflesh, or perhaps a more 'rock' version of Cop-era Swans, and harks back to a time when you could name songs such as 'Suck And Eat You', 'Eat Forever Dog', 'Heavy Blood' and 'Scum After Death' and keep a straight face. Whatever. There's monumental riffage here, cranking rhythms and moments of PiL-like dub thrown in the mix. Don't call it 'industrial metal' coz I mostly hate that shit, and I don't hate this.


I bought this recently at a Salvo's for $2, as well as volume 2 for an extra $2. That's $4 in total for two double CDs which are out of print and actually kind of coveted amongst some electro-jerks, but regardless, I bought these on a cheapskate whim and a whiff of nostalgia for days gone by. I was working at Missing Link when the first Clicks + Cuts 2CD came out - it was all about CDs back then, ya know, so don't claim otherwise - and it was, relatively speaking, a hot item. Not sales-wise so much, but the Mille Plateaux label was a hot ticket in the '90s up until its dissolution in 2004, the kind of label gormless Wire-reading types would jerk off over, and while I never flipped a lid (or did other deeds) over its wares, I was well aware of its activities and liked some of what it did. And since it's 2015 and a mere $4 will buy me about 300 minutes of compiled music from the MP stable (and some of it not), I took a trip down memory lane. Vol. 1 has all those party-starter names you remember - snd, Pan Sonic, Pole, Vladislav Delay, Alva Noto et al - and some you probably don't. What it is is a top-notch comp' of experimental electronica of varied stripes: glitchtronica, minimal dub, avant-techtronica and other terms I really do promise to never utter again. When not 'rocking', Clicks + Cuts remains a great musical antidote. Should you come across any volume in a junk shop near you, do not hesitate.


One of my favourite releases of 2015, and yes, IT'S A CANADIAN FOLK-ROCK ALBUM! Pick yourself up off the ground and listen. Weather Station is essentially Canadian singer-songwriter, Tamara Linderman, and Loyalty is her/their third album and the first to be released on what is one of my fave currently operating imprints, Paradise Of Bachelors (they're also responsible for three other killers in '15: Nathan Salsburg and James Elkington's Ambsace [Faheyesque guitar duets]), Promised Land Sound's For Use And Delight [total 'Dead/Byrds worship] and the reissue of Kenny Knight's amazing Crossroads LP from 1980). POB deal in what is essentially 'Americana' (or Canadiana, if you will), but without the vom-inducing baggage I usually associate with the genre (ie. - it's not just dickheads in cowboy shirts trying to be Ryan Adams or Jeff Tweedy); the fact is - their hit rate is right up there, a small but feasible catalogue which is all good. Back to Weather Station... the closest reference one could bring up is Joni Mitchell. Everyone brings up Mitchell, and it's not just because she also happens to be a Canadian folky/singer/songwriter, but because Linderman sounds a whole lot like her (taking the key down a pitch or two, however) and indeed writes songs like her, a fingerpicking, free-flowing approach. Which to me is nothing to sneeze nor laugh at (I came around - heavily - to the JN stratosphere a number of years back. Suck on that one). Again, none of this babble amounts to a hill of shinola if Weather Station didn't have the songs, and that they do in abundance. All 11 songs presents move my heart and loins in a way few other releases this year have. The 1-2-3 bang of the first three cuts, 'Way It Is, Way It Could Be, 'Loyalty' and 'Floodplain' is a thing of great beauty. Linderman sings with great conviction, the proceedings never get corny or overcooked and the whole thing slaps together like a statement worth being partial to. My first few listens of Loyalty evoked a lukewarm response, but after a friend insisted that I proceed with further immersion, I persisted. And I'm glad I did - it is one of 2015's finest recordings, one which soothed my aching brain on many occasions this past year.



The Franco Battiato story has been told voluminous times before, and by people far more qualified to tell it than I. He remains a huge figure in Italian music and straightened his approach considerably in the 1980s to gain widespread fame and fortune in his homeland (which isn't to say that said music isn't without its considerable charm and interest, both musically and lyrically), though his 1970s output remains one of the most fascinating and flat-out brilliant catalogues of music of its (or any) era. Italy's contribution to the post-psychedelic universe is well known (well, perhaps to obsessive nutcases such as you and I), but Battiato's 1970s output is a one-of-a-kind obsessive, philosophical
journey which encompasses existentialism, radical politics, musique concret, experimental prog, ambient and singer-songwriter tales into a whole which beggars categorisation. His Fetus and Pollution LPs were reissued onto CD by the Water label a decade or more ago, and once a year I pay them a visit. Right now is that time. His other '70s LPs are up on Spotify, for those who care to stream (and Sulle corde di Aries and Clic must also be heard), though these two probably remain his finest combinations of the accessible and the inexplicable: psychedelic keyboards, sound collages, kosmiche grooves and honest-to-God songs - they are the mark of a genius, some of the most forward-thinking music ever laid to tape. It's 40+ years later and most are still left in their collective dust.


Bought this for ONE WHOLE DOLLAR at a primary school fete a couple of weeks ago. Throw in an Astor Piazzolla CD, too, and that's a whopping TWO DOLLARS extracted from my pocket. Such is the seeming worth of music in this day and age. Sweet Oblivion was originally released in 1992 and was the band's first major label effort, let loose upon the world just as 'grunge' was taking the western world by storm and soon embarrassing all and sundry. Soon it would all be about Candlebox and Bush, but Screaming Trees had deep roots in the undie-ground and, so far as I can see it, never managed to make fools of themselves in the process. I never flipped out over the band in any manner whatsoever. I liked their 'Nearly Lost You' single a lot (still do - a lot), but when grunge came to town, I was elsewhere and paid it no mind. But for 100 cents, I will take the plunge, and 23 years later, when the dust has settled and I've calmed down, settled into middle age and forgiven all and sundry for their musical crimes in the 1990s, Sweet Oblivion makes for an exceedingly pleasant listen and then some. I've never swallowed the legend of myth of Mark Lanegan as many have done (a decent number of my compadres swear by his solo output, though they leave my non-plussed), and nor was I even that hot on the band's SST recordings (minus their Other Worlds EP from 1985, which is fantastic), but Sweet Oblivion has that BIG GRUNGE-ROCK SOUND with BIG MELODIES, SOARING VOCALS and GIANT HOOKS which doesn't remind me of Pearl Jam or Smashing Pumpkins, and thus gets them off the hook. This is good car-driving music for Dave The Dad - songs such as the opener, 'Shadow Of The Season' and 'Butterfly', has one punching the air, whilst a ballad such as 'Dollar Bill' has one nearly weeping, wondering why the fuck one is driving around in a car listening to the Screaming Trees in 2015 - but it all sounds good and right when one isn't up for a musical challenge. Sweet Oblivion is fine rock & roll, and that's the end of the story. Over. Out.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

BUZZCOCKS/MAGAZINE

I fell over this YouTube clip yesterday, and it impressed me greatly. It's more than a mere clip, it's a two-part documentary on the Buzzcocks and Magazine totalling 40 minutes of your time, and worthy of your time it is. I posted a little while ago here a brief, and possibly lame, appraisal of the early works of Magazine, and my affection for the band - primarily their first three LPs: Real Life, Secondhand Daylight and The Correct Use Of Soap - increases as time goes by. They were a very peculiar beast of a band, but of course, Howard Devoto is a rather peculiar fellow. He sabotaged his own possible career as a 'punk icon' just as the Buzzcocks were taking off, claiming the 'movement' had become a cliche and he wished to move on (a truism, but still no reason to quit the band, so far as I can see it, especially since the Buzzcocks were most definitely one of the smarter/better/best practioners of the genre, but I digress...). There's a telling interview within the documentary, in which he notes that it's a basic part of his personality: sabotaging expectations.

 Regardless, this mini-feature was made/narrated by Tony Wilson for the Granada TV show, What Goes On (the first televisual show to give the Sex Pistols some air) in the UK, and he was certainly one of the smarter and more atuned television presenters of his or any time, but that's obvious. There's been a lot of mythologising regarding Tony Wilson and Factory Records the past two decades, but his accomplishments and what he brought to British life during the punk/post-punk era cannot be taken away from him. This documentary shows him as an informed and informative man, and it really does the chart the respective careers of the Buzzcocks and Magazine circa 1978 in an intelligent and interesting manner which never insults the intelligence of the viewer. The fact is this: you'd be hard pressed to find a documentary on two excellent bands as good as this on any television show ever.

It's interesting to note the difference between the two bands: the Buzzcocks stuck to a formula pretty tightly - admittedly it's a genre they pioneered - one of high-energy punk rock brandished with pop melodies, while Magazine went for texture, drama and more mixed tempos, mixing punk aggression with a heavy dose of '70s Eno and Berlin-period Bowie. The Buzzcocks kept it simple; Magzine didn't. In fact, the latter were downright musicianly, with dunderheads like journalist Gary Bushell writing them off as prog-rockers. That said, this clip of the band demonstrates their sense of musical grandeur quite perfectly, and if your idea of punk rock in 1978 was Sham 69 and their acolytes, then the sight of Magazine with their multi-keyboard set-up and mounted roto-toms on the drum kit may indeed been a thing of great horror.

The fact remains, however, that both bands excelled, and the Buzzcocks, similarly, made three LPs to stake your life on: Another Music In A Different Kitchen, Love Bites and A Different Kind Of Tension - the kind of consistent longplay action which left many of their contemporaries in the dust. Both Pete Shelley and Devoto are captivating figures in '70s avant-punk; Shelley, for instance, recorded an experimental electronic album way back in 1974 (released in 1980 on his Groovy Records label), and you can hear some of it here. Both men were pioneers, so pay some goddamn respect.
Anyway, sit back, grab a drink and enjoy. It's worth it...