Aleksandar Vrhovec is certainly a name that we have come across on this site before. We have encountered his more accessible and perhaps even chart friendly side with LucidFer and the more intricate and progressive moments with Acid Hags. And if, as you step from one to the other, you find yourself moving into ever more experimental realms, Reset is the stepping stone that takes you even further into more intriguing and wonderfully strange sonic landscapes.
ZGTC has always been a beguiling and fluid prospect. Live shows seem to be free form and largely improvised, or at least they give that impression, often dependant on what other musicians are around to collaborate with and what instrument takes the whim of the man at the heart of the operation. But sometimes it pays to tie things down and this is what we have here, though it is probably only really representative of what was in the air on the specific day that the tape was rolling. Good, music doesn’t need to have a definitive form, bands don’t need to be restricted to the idea of being hamstrung by a recording, artists should be free to explore their own potential rather than pander to those around them. That way cover bands lie….
If this were a competition I would already be awarding additional points for the band having such a cool and interesting name. But this is a music review and as such things can’t be so easily measured but I can award interesting words. Words like strange, beguiling, hypnotic, exploratory perhaps even challenging, all meant in their most positive of applications.
Light Sketch is a mesmerising and musically left-field piece that combines spoken word with glitchy electronica that at once sounds like early synth experiments combined with a spaced out beat poetry performance but also a futuristic reappraisal of electronic music combined with a zen meditation class. Where it fits into the musical canon and what it is really all about is a pointless discussion really, it is so unique, so offbeat that it probably means something different to everyone who encounters it. Sci-fi jazz? Deep Space Avant-Gardening? Computers teaching themselves to write music? That would explain all the 11 11 business!
To be honest I don’t know what’s going on really, you don’t have to, that’s the joy of it. I just know that I like it. Let’s just call it just another mystery of the universe that cleverer people than me will one day be able to explain. Probably using Quantum Physics. Or perhaps drugs.
A strange title for a strange album. And I mean that in the nicest possible of ways. Strange is good, strange is interesting, strange is the opposite of safe, strange is unpredictable. Strange is often great and there are certainly many great aspects to this album. The first great thing is its approach towards genres…Matthew De Ver isn’t really concerned with such limitations and here he wanders between the ambient and the funky, the spacious and the groovesome, the beat driven and the transient, often within the space of one song.
What is also great about it is the analogous nature of the lyrics, which on the surface seem to be of a man setting himself against the challenges of the natural world, of climbing mountains, of taking on the elements, of being lost in the snow. Listen deeper and you find the real story and understand that these physical battles are metaphors for the loves, longings and losses of his own life.
The Climb is a funky opening salvo but largely the album is happier to deliver cooler and more considered sonics with Blood on The Snow being an intimate spoken word one on one conversation with the listener and Battle Alone a slow jazz infused trip-hop groove. Between these extremes songs such as Secret Keeper come on like Mercury Rev’s angelic soundscapes playing a dance card and Up To The Air is a looping and beguiling, alt-pop ballad.
It’s an album that reveals its greatness slowly, that rewards the listeners regular return, peels back its textures and layers through constant re-examination. If you are looking for a quick musical fix, this isn’t really the place but if you wan’t to make a new musical friend, and the best albums do come to feel like friends, this is certainly the start of a new beautiful musical relationship. How great is that?
Pioneer Generation showed us just how uniquely Jamit thinks when it comes to modern dance music and MRT carries on down that same path, one that wanders well away from the mainstream and seems to travel parallel to film score, avant garde meanderings, video soundtrack and electronic experimentation.
MRT could stand for a lot of things but I’m guessing that Mass Rapid Transport is the reference here, given his Singapore location, the track seeming to mimic the industrial rumbling and hypnotic tribal groove of that famous urban rail system. I may be wrong but it works for me. But that is the joy of such tracks I guess, without the lyrics they allow the listener to decided what they mean and it is a definition that can change and evolve from person to person and from day to day.
Again Jamit not only thinks outside the box, but shows us just how small the box. As his song builds in intensity and repetition, as it conquers new sonic territory and explores new musical horizons, it is only when you look back you realise just how small that box is and how far he has come.
The most adventurous music takes you way beyond the usual concerns and questions normally found surrounding songs and hopefully makes you debate what music is even about. Where do the boundaries between music and art, between the frivolous and the academic, between bold exploration and musical deconstruction actually lie? Like most creativity activities too, it answers none of these questions, instead leaving that purely up to the listener whilst it gets on with setting up the next topic for discussion and musing.
Piles is a project based around drumming, a continuation of Guigou Chevenier’s work with experimental trio Les Batteries, it favours beat and groove over melody and conventional song structure and wanders paths that link experimental kosmiche sounds, tribal hypnotics, repetitive industrial noise, intense and singular drone sonics, improvisational jazz and modern classical sound art.
Although tracks such as Mort Aux Cons do wander into more guitar driven territory and Materials in US feels like the secret recordings of an off-shift car plant crossed with the less obviously musical bits of a Vangelis sound track, largely beat is king. From the skittering jazz work-out of Chambre D’Echo to the unadorned polyrhythms of Ulrik to the strange Bauhausian soundscapes of Drones and Piles, it’s a fascinating and unique journey. Okay, you are hardly going to be putting this on as you get ready for a night clubbing, but if you do, I really need to know the name of any club that you feel that this is the perfect warm up to. It sounds like my kind of place.
Despite having only encountered Floating Beauty twice before, via the single Larissa and the album that spawned it, Larva, I already look forward to any of their music which finds its way to my review pile. Why? Because musically it is so different from almost everything else that comes my way, it runs against the usual fads and fashion of pop culture, in short it is always a truly unique experience. Floating Beauty makes music which is slow and purposefully, which builds tension and anticipation, that demands patience and rewards the listener for taking the time to journey with it.
Like a Glare in the Night sees Floating Beauty continue to mix classical grandeur with ambient electronica, but whereas the previous album seems to come more form the former, full of sweeping strings and drawn out elegance, this time out there seems to have been a slight shift to the latter. Not so much that you would say that the sound has significantly changed, rather that the style is less about classical sounds being formed into ambient landscapes but more interested in ambient sounds capturing the blissful grace of those timeless sonics.
Right from opening track Glow, there is a more electronic feel, glitchy and echoing radio noise, and punctuated by industrial sound shocks and pummelling beats yet between these sonic peaks the more expected gossamer-like textures still reign supreme. Halo takes such near emptiness to the extreme, twinkling acoustic guitars and the noise of the natural world forming the translucent body of the song and Gleam returns us to a place of piano led beauty with just enough droning electronica to remind us that this album is a meeting of worlds.
It is a meeting of the formal and the inventive, of the old and the new, of the familiar and the strange. And it is as those parameters get used in differing amounts that the music takes its form. The music seems to reflect the differing night time visuals that you might see looking out over a cityscape… The Glare a pulsing beacon broadcasting at intervals, Glitter the gentle shimmer of effervescent patterns, The Whisper, the slightest of flickers and Dark Storm the crackle of thunderous energy and dancing lightning as a storm approaches.
This is music as light, light as sound, sound describing a visual aspect, vision as a sonic rendering, it’s brave and marvellous and such an intriguing concept. It is almost like the soundtrack to a piece of film that is yet to be created, or perhaps one that only needs to exist in the listeners mind. Or maybe this is the starting point of a new creative process whereby, rather than have musicians and composers create music for existing films, that film makers instead create the visual component to accompany the music. Now that really is a tantalising new idea.
There is something wonderfully glacial about Verve Crystal. The songs are wilfully unhurried seeming to ooze and crawl forward rather than be driven by anything more urgent and anyone who opens an album with an opus clocking in at just under twelve minutes has got to be applauded. So already loving the way Humboldt Been approaches music, I dived into this 5 track offering.
And, as I expected, it is an attitude which seems through the music too. Unrestrained by fad or fashion, there are all sorts of music being bent to the artistic will. Structureless post-rock meets wigged out psychedelia, cavernous echos meet avant-garde exploration, Doorsian dystopian blues meets prog rock shenanigans… and it is brilliant. Not just in its musical belligerence, its will to neither pander to or predict what the listener is looking for but in just how free form and untethered everything is.
There is little point in running through the individual songs as this is a suite of musical statements that merge and mingle and are best dealt with as a whole, in effect forming one continual musical piece and bordering on that much maligned form, the concept album. But perhaps rather than being a concept album this is instead an album of concepts, though what those concepts are really is anyone’s guess, which in itself is another wonderfully freeing aspect of the music.
Music to relax too, music to contemplate, music to get stoned too? Yes, it’s all of those. Big, cinematic, wide-screen? Tick all of those boxes too. Left-field, futuristically retro, offbeat and restless? Again, all of the above. In fact it is fascinating how something so free form and seemingly directionless fits into so many places, ticks so many boxes and jumps across so many genres and purposes. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you. Rules are bad!
Coming on like a long lost Berlin-era Bowie track that fell down the cracks and missed its place on one of those three strange and sublime albums only to resurface years later, Brotherhood is the perfect way to kick things off. I don’t know if the Bowie reference is being too obvious but, despite so many artists claiming to be influenced by him, few create anything that expands on his body of work. Copy, plagiarise, pastiche, cover or downright rip off, yes that has been done to death, but Brotherhood feels as if it is actually taking his thought processes and running with them into new territory.
But this is Darto and just when you think you have things sorted out, they sonically shift and slide into whole new worlds. Totality is a dream state lullaby, Persona is a cool jazz ballad all sultry saxophones and spoken word and Everyday Actor wanders into the realms of a motornik infused downbeat New Romantic pop song.
Even over 4 songs Fundamental Slime covers more creative ground, looks under more musical stones and weaves more sonic ideas into its tapestry than most bands do across whole suits of albums and that is Darto‘s great charm. They operate outside fad or fashion, they belong neither to now or then, generic boundaries are irrelevancies, musical styles are playthings and apart from the aforementioned, there are few useful comparisons. There are not many bands that you can truly say that about.
What a breath of fresh air. In a world that sees new music scribblers and celebrators of emerging artists bombarded with cliched, mumble rap set to that same trap beat and taking that same self-aggrandising lyrical tough man act in an effort to just gain more views, likes, followers, money, gold, cars, houses… ad infinitum, it is great to come across someone working in the very broad urban music field that really breaks the mould.
And that is no overstatement, no parabolic soundbite that I can’t back up, just listen to the album, its easy to justify such a declaration. Old School hip-hop flow and rap abounds, you know, the sort of deliveries that actually landed with a punch to the brain and are mixed with re-appropriated spoken word pieces, juggled and juxtaposed. The beats strut confidently across the tracks and the groove is the clear king here but it is what is going on behind, beyond and between these structures which is the real charm. Glitchy electronica, classical sweeps, funky basslines, mutant dance and futuristic space noise all weave around the more expected sounds.
And lyrically too there is a lot to like because Whalan has something to say. Subjects move from climate change to conspiracy theory, the power of music, of love, loss and longing, of the world at large and the small stories that fill every pavement and every home. Of hopes, dreams and drama, fear for the future, solace in the past. Even the title is a challenge. We all know these millennials have little to contribute and nothing to say, live in their own little social media bubbles and have few original thoughts, they said so on Fox News right? Well, if Jackson Whalan’s quirky and brilliant collection of sounds and thoughts does just one thing, it forces you to totally rethink that cliched idea. About time.
This latest 10 track slice of chilled loveliness from The Kunig comes from a very interesting place, one where psychedelic and progressive experiments of the likes of Tangerine Dream still float in the air above the more modern and mellow electronic dance vibes that form the album’s backbone. And like the mercurial nature of those early electronic pioneers, The Kunig is happy to wilfully genre hop to create its core sounds and sonically side step expectations to break new and unexpected musical ground.
Songs like Cut Up sound especially retro, but only in that same way that those bands of the past were using music to create the future…future-retro music, is that even possible, do the laws of time and physics allow for such a concept. Well, they may not but the laws of music do and that is all that matters here. Loser wanders some cutting edge dance floor territory, Morphine is a strange psychedelic rush which blends wonky guitars with slick world music, part a strange kind of blues, part globe-trotting soundscaping, but that’s drugs for you, and Chantilly sounds like a long lost Steely Dan track, and you can’t get better than that.
If you like music to fall in line with the neat and organised world of pigeon-holes and genres, labels and musical demarcations then this isn’t for you and to be honest you probably need to stick to your Rolling Stones albums. But for anyone with a broad mind and love of musical tangents, then form a queue right here.
Outermost Edge is a collection of songs which sees contemporary classical music heading into experimental jazz territory and takes the form of sonic creations which happens as much between the notes and in the breaths between the lyrics as in the more conventional sonic communications. There is a wonderful minimalism and deft composition at work here, every beat, every pass of the violin bow, every poetic line, has been honed and whittled to provide the most impact with the least presence. It’s an art which often seems missing in the bombastic and showboating of the modern musical world.
If opening salvo Black Drops wanders the same off-kilter modern classical pathways as the likes of Karl-Heinz Stockhauser and the desolate musical spaces of Philip Glass, it is followed by the sultry, jazz tones of Serves All Loss a piece which seems to conjure black and white noir-ish cinematics and European sophistication. And it is between these two extremes that the album makes its way, adding hints of electronica, sounds gathered from various world music and neighbouring genres but always used to create cool understatement and beguiling sounds.
But even within these parameters boundaries are pushed and rules flaunted. Silence in Between comes at you like a scratched 78 rpm record, creating off-beat jumps and glitches as part of its own sonic personality, Andalusia is a sweeping, distant sounding summation of exotic climes and Way Out is a strange blend of whimsical calypso and lilting pop rhythms somewhat at odds with its apocalyptic lyrical nature.
Outermost Edge is an exercise in virtuosity reduced to its minimal requirements, there is no questioning the skill and technical ability of all involved but as always it is a testament to the bravery of leaving space, of knowing what not to play and of drawing the listener in to the atmospherics and moods that swirl around between the heard and the anticipated.
Whilst On Top feels like a strange and beguiling soundtrack, what the film it is the score too really does defy imagination. If soundtracks seek to underline and emphasise the action and emotion taking place on screen, then On Top belongs in the company of a tense and intense film noir or a slow burning atmospheric horror movie. Conformity goes out of the window from start to finish and alongside more regular musical instruments and traditional recording techniques, everything from spoken word, found sounds,, strange percussive objects and the amplified results of stones and pieces of glass being played with, moved and manipulated make up the mix.
This is an album more concerned in inducing mood, emotion and reaction in the listener, the songs, if indeed they can be regarded as songs in the conventional sense, are fractured and unexpected, fall in and out of musical norm and into the realms of sonic gene-splicing and the building of chimeric musical creatures, part music, part noise, held together with the most mercurial of acoustic glue.
It comes as no surprise that Petit has in the past worked and collaborated with a range of musical explorers from Lydia Lunch to Throbbing Gristle’s Cosey Fanni Tutti, Barry Adamson and James Johnson, the latter found everywhere from Gallon Drunk to Faust to The Bad Seeds. The same restless spirit lies at On Top’s heart, the same need to explore the fringes of music, to find out where you end up when you push beyond conventional song and structure, when you find yourself beyond the place where the rules were written, where the only guideline is your own imagination.
Music like this is like high-end cat walk fashion shows. You watch the models (tracks) walk down the catwalk (album) in all manner of impractical (musical) trappings and you instinctively think that you would never see anyone out in the street wearing that. And that is true, but like those over the top, catwalk designs, the trickle down affect and subtle influence that this sort of music has on the more mainstream and conventional is a lot more powerful than you could even begin to realise.
I have to confess that when lead single and album opener There’s Nothin Like You first drifted past this reviewers ears, something strange happened. That odd sensation that here was a band that was at once brilliant yet bonkers, original less because they had stumbled across a wonderful new sound but more because they had thrown a hand-grenade into a number of indie, alt and art-rock scenes and just stuck the pieces back together. I think I may have described them as “mad as a bucket of frogs.” I stand by that statement.
And whilst I knew that it was going to be an impossible job to try to convey exactly what they do, I also knew that this was just the sort of band that I want more people to hear. Beyond the aforementioned single the landscape is just as strange. Disjointed indie clashes with college rock collages, art-punk urges, sinister fairy tale deliveries, freaky pop and more besides.
It is an album which explores our darker moods and our solitary moments and how that part of our personality effects the world around us. Like the analogous night of the title it can be loving, joyful or dark and terrible, full of fun or wracked with fear. And that balance of emotions is summed up in the music. Sometimes direct and melodic, sometime fractured and challenging. A mesmerising art-attack I ever their was one.
There is an art to building a song, to pulling the listener along with you and keeping things interesting. It’s an art that Ben Noble excels in and Cutting Teeth is a showcase of just how to do it brilliantly. Starting with deft and delicate guitar picking, it adds layers as it travels towards its destination, primal electronica wanders around the periphery, beats and bass joins the fray, it breaks down and builds, plays with drama and dynamics and by the time it reaches its conclusion whole new strange sonic worlds have been built around them.
But what is so great is that for all its musical proclivities, all its wandering off of the beaten track, all of the strange sonic trappings it swathes itself in, underneath is a solid, simple and simply fantastic song. Get the basics right and you can get as imaginative a you like with the surrounding sound. Cutting Teeth, from his album Whiskey Priest, is beguiling, introspective, cinematic and glorious. Bon Iver? Never heard of him!
Never judge a book by its cover but both the title of this album, the wordiness of the track names and even the name of the artist in all its lower case glory are clear sign posts that what follows is going to be something a bit left field, a bit special, totally unique. connect_icut makes music, if indeed it is music in the conventional sense, which aims to blur lines. Lines between instinct and intellect, chaos and order, organic and synthetic, analogue and digital and the result is something which pretty much is defined by what it is breaking away from. It is post-digital, post-electro, post-song even and though built of melodic threads it feels more like an art-piece, a sound installation, an acoustic experiment.
But then again who defines what music is, who gets to set the limits of where it can go, which boundaries are pushed? A four-four beat and some throw away lyrics might conform to a lot of peoples definition but out on the fringes new ideas are being explored, experiments in tonal music, fluid sound washes, structureless expressionism and glitchy distractions.
The opening brace of songs Uridium and Laureline brim with hypnotic subtleties, drawn out threads of sound and slow-burning intrigue and at the other extreme Haernwerthwr is a claustrophobic bundle of sparks and energy and pulsing electronica. But it is not an album that should be seen as a collection of tracks, in the same what that art is not just a collection of colours and shapes. Music For Granular Sythesizer is more about abstraction and texture but it is also about something much bigger, it is about exploring the edges of music, finding out what is beyond once you have pushed that boundary to its accepted limits, it is about music as art and about the total questioning of what music can even be. Now that is what I call thinking big.
Matching lyrics which are poetic, scientific and philosophical to music which is hypnotic and mercurial, Astrobal’s Memories of Stars falls somewhere between a new wave of underground dance culture and Carl Sagan’s iconic Cosmos reimagined as music. It is full of electronic soundscapes, psychedelic meanderings and slow pop grooves and whilst we think of electronic music as being very much a recent form, here the echos of early pioneers such as the Enid, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, who incidentally get namechecked, can clearly be heard. But as is always the way with the cyclical nature of music, looking back is the same as looking forward, sort of, and as much as this music tips its hat to those originators, it also blazes its own, fairly gentle, trail into its own future.
The title track is the briefest of encounters, a spoken word delivery over a slow but relentless beat, fading out like a broken signal just over a minute down the line and at the other extent of the musical brief is Belle Comme La Nuit whose glitchy grooves steer closest to what you could concieve as a converntional dance track. Within these two parameters, the pace is wonderfully smooth, the tone warm and engaging, the lyrics scattered between spoken, sung or robotic and the overall effect is as intriguing and digitally otherworldly.
For those who need to order their life in such ways you can file this under, dance, alt-pop, progressive, cosmic soundtrack, cinematic, ambient or experimental, depending on just where in the sonic water you dip your toe. Those who care less about such things just file it under wow!
If most people pursuing musical endeavours are the equivalent of commuters rushing about town looking to pick up the tools and equipment needed to fashion sound into what most people recognise as acceptable and fairly conformist forms, Dave Wesley is more like an astronaut, deep sea diver or caver, someone who finds inspiration and creative building blocks in the furthest of reaches. Mercurial could almost be a word invented to try to encapsulate how different his various musical projects are from the normal scheme of things and in a way it is often easier to define his music by what it isn’t rather than what it is.
It isn’t about the song, it isn’t structured, not in any way that is obvious from the outside, though I’m sure there is more maths and measurement going on under the skin than I could even hope to comprehend. It isn’t lyrical, though there are voices and it certainly isn’t designed with hook, melody or ease of access in mind. But what it is is intriguing and thought provoking in the same way that other artistic forms often are but contemporary music rarely is.
Structure and Behaviours music, if it even is music, talks to you in the same way the likes of Laurie Anderson’s or Philip Glass’ might, challenging and confrontational, strange and all the more exotic because of it. Its combination of conversational speech and eerie echo’s of industry or radio interference is reminiscent of the between song parts on Vangelis’ original Blade Runner Soundtrack or the incidental passages from The Wall. But whereas those were the short link between the more recognised tracks, these strange, almost eavesdropped collections are the whole raison d’être.
I don’t pretend to understand it, maybe that is the point, but I always want to hear what comes next, muse on its meaning, get confounded by its impenetrable shell and ponder the whole reason for its existence. When was the last time a three minute pop song gave you all of that?
Step into a swirling, warping re-imagining of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds constructed with analog synths, glitchy vocal effects, trip hop beats, and kitten samples… plentiful kitten samples.
I was a tad apprehensive about listening to a full LP re-interpretation of one of my favourite albums, but I’m not sure why, as I happily listen away to The Flamings Lips covering the entirety of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. I guess it is because YYY (multi-dimensional songwriter/producer Austin Carson) was an unknown to me, but why should such a thing dictate what my ears wish to listen to? It’s a good thing I don’t, really, as my ears love this!
I’m not sure how you pronounce YYY, so I’m going with saying ‘Y’ three times. You can say it how you like.
Starting life as a little musical experiment only one song was planned, but this soon beach balled (see what I did?) into a project that included many of Austin’s musical friends including rappers P.O.S and deM atlaS to dream pop duo Fort Wilson; who provide a beautiful set of harmonies for the technically-not-on-the-original-album-but-what-the-hell ‘Good Vibrations’. If you can imagine The Magic Numbers having a crack at this iconic Beach Boys track with Hot Chip providing the music, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.
This is the YYY’s first release and was recorded and produced in Austin’s home studio, ‘The Aqua Dungeon’. Found sounds are slotted and warped into all sorts of interesting places. I’ve heard some nice chilled waves and cats (quite a few cats) car horns and fireworks.
While Austin does a tremendous job at mimicking Brian Wilson’s melancholy cries, the album is illuminated by plenty of additional vocals. The female vocalists really do add something refreshing to this album, particularly on ‘Still Believe In Me’ ‘Don’t Talk’ and ‘I’m Waiting for the Day’.
‘Waiting for the Day’ also includes some glorious scream samples buried between the chorus and verses.
Also listen out for laughter, coughing fits and timing checks all distorted and slammed through various glitch machines.
‘Sloop John B’, one of my favourite songs, includes a slow throbbing synth bass, which gives way to a delicate acoustic guitar and closes with a max-fuzz guitar. Amazing!
Everyone’s favourite, recently destroyed by the BBC tune*, ‘God Only Knows’ kicks off with a question about cat sleeping tactics and shows plenty of reverence for the delicateness of the original, and draws out with a harmonica and acoustic guitar.
‘Hang On To Your Ego’ includes Caribbean drum samples and a deep bass wobbling around beneath the tender vocals.
Drums across the album include live sets and some nice drum machines and tasty trip hop beats (Just check out ‘Let’s Go Away for Awhile’ for some true trip hop beauty).
This is a very confident and entertaining re-interpretation of Pet Sounds, which is a lot of fun to listen to and sounds like it was even more fun to make and is a much more enjoyable listen than The Flaming Lips recent efforts at album covers.
I’m looking forward to hearing what Austin and his little cat army create next!
*I never once mentioned Dave Grohl sitting on a f**cking cloud!
This album was a mystery to me when I picked it up. There weren’t any identifying features to who created this album, no band name and no title (which might be different in the general release, I guess). The front cover shows a pair of arms changing into a tree and a face just visible across the skin of the hands.
This is ‘The Nothing’, the second album by The Last Dinosaur, the brainchild of London-based Jamie Cameron and his music college friend, Luke Hayden.
As the first song begins with a cut-back, lo-fi acoustic guitar and distant and distorted vocals, you immediately enter a delicate and cobweb-filled dreamscape of whispered dictaphone tapes, strings, bells, saxophones and gentle elements.
The album documents a cathartic journey for Jamie as he faces difficult memories from his past through this collection of songs, with life, death, regeneration and peace being prominent themes through this album that was written and recorded between 2009 and 2016.
The lyrics are beautiful. The second track, ‘Grow’ repeats a chorus of ‘wrap me in foil, plant me in soil’. There is true soul here, more than can easily be communicated in words, but it shares much in common with Bon Iver’s delicate first album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ with added flourishes reminiscent of Sparklehorse and Sufjan Stevens, but these are unfair comparisons, in many ways, as ‘The Nothing’ is simply its own thing.
The vocals are frequently pushed back into the mix and layered in various levels of distortion, that keep the listener away from direct observation of verse and instead allow the listening of an emotional whole.
The stand out tracks for me are ‘All My Faith’, with its refrain of ‘You will be loved, you will be loved’, and the powerful ‘We’ll Greet Death’. There are also instrumental tracks, each comprising a mix of various instruments including violas and saxophones.
Heart breaking and beautiful, ‘The Nothing’ provides plenty of emotion that will stay with you long after the album has stopped playing.
Modern technology has presented a lot of new sonic possibilities, even for the grassroots, jobbing musician. A guitar is no longer just a guitar, a voice more than a voice and I recall seeing Adam Scott Glasspool demonstrating this concept live in a small venue as banks of affected guitar sound washed around him, resonant and otherworldly, sweeping and cinematic and yet all resulting from one man, six strings and a broad minded approach.
It’s an approach he continues to explore on his latest e.p. Any Joy. Whilst In The Shade of the Trees offers a fairly expected take on the chilled, ambient acoustic experience, shimmering guitars embellished by some intriguing haunting background noises and a lilting melody centre stage elsewhere he is less conventional.
Arkansas is a wonderfully chiming instrumental, part classical oriental, part BBC Radiophonic Workshop, intriguing in its lack of urgency and its ability to use notes to merely create bubbles around existing natural atmospherics and let both nature and the listener fill in the rest.
Even the slightly more substantial tracks which bookend the e.p. This Can Be and Where I Am Unknown seem the product of drifting, primal sounds, distant echoes of the birth of the universe and disembodied vocals rather than the usual musical building blocks.
It is music that seems in turn the product of a human composer, the mournful sounds from deep within a dying computer and transient, elemental sounds of the natural world. It is at once ancient and futuristic, timeless and outside of time itself. I guess the greatest complement you can give any original songwriter is that you can’t pin down exactly where their music fits into the scheme of things. And here that is an understatement, to say the least.
Pre-order Any Joy (and all previous releases) HERE
The choice of title for Diagonal People’s debut release seems quite resonant considering what is found within. Classical scholars will know The Odyssey as that meandering ten-year adventure which took its homeward bound hero through unexpected trials and tribulations. Readers of more modern works might recall Ulysses (the Roman name for the same) a challenging and meandering book, which took most people almost as long to read. So it is quite apt that within the wonderful abstract daubing of the albums artwork there is a musical journey just as creative, adventurous and confrontational as its name implies.
Whilst many of their fellow musicians seem content to play by the rules and head off down commercially viable indie avenues, fame and fortune and maybe even a Maida Vale session glittering in the distance, The Diagonals are happy to make noise-art for art’s sake. They play musical magpie liberally plundering anything and everything that takes their fancy, r’n’b grooves, overdriven Zappa-esque urges, squalling post-punk experimentations, classical subversions, broken synth pop and beyond but it is in the re-assembling of such building blocks which is where the true brilliance lies.
As one form, genre or style is gently shifted, layered, segued and subverted by the next, the whole history of pop music is ripped up and stuck back together before your very ears. Some bands take a career to complete such a task, others whole albums…these guys do it in just one song. That song is Ballad (Screaming Through Milk White Teeth.) As a centrepiece of the album it is perfect and sees them at their most searching, most challenging, most subversive, most brilliant.
But this is merely the most dominant point in a musical landscape of lofty peaks and strange and beautiful vistas that surround it. Some, such as Heaven, Hold Me Down Here are soothing and easy on the eye; others such as Child of the Interdimensional Landscape are more twisted and angular but never is the view the same in any given direction.
For a debut album it contains such complexity, broad range of reference and widescreen musicality and their learning curve seems to have been hidden from view and what has been delivered is already a fully formed and mature sounding album. They rant on society, the human condition and strange existential thought, life, the universe and …well, everything. They mix seriousness with satire, obscurity with clarity, poignancy and pretention. But pretension is fine when it is done knowingly (…and I should know) and this gang of creative misfits know exactly what they are doing.
It may seem as if I am writing about a new Diagonal People song every week. I generally am, their rate of output is pretty impressive to say the least. And the fact that they come packaged as wonderfully weird DIY videos shows that whilst some bands are happy to produce slick, high production but ultimately vacuous and generic videos, this bunch of art-pop weirdoes are content to rove the streets filming their own antics and creative expressions. That’s right, they are wandering the streets…lock up your dressing up box and face glitter.
Musically it jumps off of the back of an 80’s Cure song but nothing is that straight forward in their world and so everything goes through the blender along with swelling Hammond organs, chiming glocks, skittering drum beats and a swirling morass of guitar and synth sounds.
As for what is going on in the video itself? I don’t know. I just don’t know.
White Wine’s new album ‘Who Cares What The Laser Says?’ is a twisted broken treat to listen to. Joe Haege’s antagonistic vocal delivery flashes over the synths and awkward beats and the lyrics are well written and delivered. His angst filled delivery is on show in the second track ‘Where’s My Line?’ (see the video below). You will also quickly assimilate the chant of ‘I’m a sick and narcissistic sycophant!’ from the track ‘Bullet Points Like Swords’.
The album title is a sentiment against technological progress, which feels well represented within both the lyrics and the soundscape of the album. Many of the drumbeats present are stop/start, which keeps you on edge as the album progresses.
There is a dark moodiness to much of Side A (I am so happy to see the two side album concept still in effect). The opening track ‘Is This Weird?’ reminds me of a hangover at a funfair and ‘Sitting On A Bench’ features a nice warped synth riff.
Side B sounds warmer than Side A and includes my favourite song on the album, the title track: ‘Who Cares What The Laser Says?’ The lyrics on this track are tremendous and I am glad that ‘two step verification’ is now engraved into music. The track also features humming synths that sit distantly in the mix and compressed drums that sound like they are banging down a door.
The other standout track for me is the final track ‘Relic On Fire’ with its slow-fast drums and is reminiscent of PVT.
The album was performed, recorded and mixed by the band/duo and I think that gives the whole musical experience here an additional edge. I am on my third listen and I’m looking forward to discovering more nuances on my fourth.
Can’t speak for the rest of the world but, certainly, I need this new Public Image Limited album in my life RIGHT NOW! Rotten and co extend their Third Coming with some new product and, in a lot of ways, it’s a continuation of 2012’s “This Is P.i.L.” Such a shame old John-Boy couldn’t convince Jah Wobble to rejoin the band six years ago alongside Lu Edmonds and Bruce Smith because, musically, that combination is EXACTLY what’s going on inside his head. Dub reggae basslines courtesy of “new boy” Scott Firth mix seamlessly with Edmonds’ repetitive, droning guitar riffs to create the perfect backing music for Lydon’s vitriolic musings and general mischief. Along with grizzled, veteran drummer Smith, possibly the TIGHTEST ever version of the band add a new chapter to P.i.L.’s canon. I missed them immensely during the seventeen years between version 2 and version 3. It’s bloody wonderful to hear something- ANYTHING- from you again so soon, boys!
On to the first issues of the day and the main issues of “What The World Needs Now…” Has the once indomitable John Lydon finally mellowed in his old age? Is his music still angry? Is it commercial? Are P.i.L relevant AT ALL in the 21st Century??? Some of these questions might be answered on my favourite song, track 9, “I’m Not Satisfied.” John’s not satisfied. In fact, he’s going to make sure that we all KNOW he’s not satisfied on this chant/rant which relies on a catchy, Edmonds guitar lick and is, perhaps, the closest in sound to late eighties-era P.i.L. on the collection. Anger as an energy fuels the finale, too, on track 11, “Shoom.” It’s a delightful GIFT for the original Punks still amongst us, all “Bollocks” and “Fuck off” albeit set against a dark electro-beat which is most definitely un-punk. Shades of “The Slab/The Order Of Death” from Keith Levene’s “Commercial Zone 1983” inform the instrumentation here and JOHNNY ROTTEN signs off with this immortal line, “What the world needs now…is another FUCK OFF!”
Elsewhere, differing themes and moods articulate Mr. Lydon’s material such as his playfulness on track 1, the lead single, “Double Trouble.” How the FUCK can ANYONE write a song about a blocked toilet—? LOL. John wants the trouble, trouble on the double, double and only a bottle of bleach will settle him down. “Domestos is, domestic bliss”, indeed. Starting off with a reprise of the bassline from “Public Image”, the song hurtles forward with some angular guitar work by Lu. It’s John-Boy at his cutest, whinging like he means it in a general tirade (“I’m aggravated, not castrated”) but seeking only to make us laugh at such nonsense. The good humour continues on track 6, “The One.” A jolly, country-inflected rompalong putting me in mind of “Lou Reed Part 1/Where Are You” from the aforementioned “Commercial Zone” project. Dare I mention that I visualise His Lordship’s TV ads for a certain well-known brand of butter during the song? Maybe not.
Darker matters are addressed on track 3, the sleazoid, rock groove of “Bettie Page.” A rumination on America’s hypocrisy towards pornography as much as a “homage” to the 1950’s Queen of Titillation, it’s got the Link Wray factor stamped all over it! Track 4, “C’est La Vie”, takes us into familiar Lydon lyrical territory as John reflects on death and an “old enemy mine”, crooning over a gentle but hauntingly affective soundscape (which, actually, sounds like it was written for “This Is P.i.L”). Who could he possibly be on about? Vivienne Westwood? Keith Levene? Martin Atkins? Or is he, in fact, reflecting on HIMSELF—?
Looking back to his youth, John gives us a song with a strong Pistols-esque resonance, track 2, “Know Now.” It’s an urgent, abrasive rocker, “Don’t need to know you, don’t want to know you”, which would have fit in well with the Pop numbers “Annalisa”, “Low Life” and “Attack” on the band’s debut album. In direct contrast, track 9, the machine-like “Corporate”, gives off an almost Aboriginal vibe with added Lu Edmonds, multi-instrumental noodling to boot. “Murderer!” intones Johnny as he bemoans the slow death of our “Global Village” sensibility.
A couple of “fillers” pad things out (in the best possible way, of course!). ”Spice Of Choice”, track 5, puts me in mind of 1986’s “Album” with its distinctive guitar breaks whilst I must confess that track 8,“Whole Life Time”, plods a little bit. Running through the entire body of work, however, is one central theme which can be best heard on cornerstone track 7, “Big Blue Sky.” Beginning with vocals reminiscent of Native American ceremonial singing (incidentally, check out the fabulous John Lydon-painted sleeve artwork depicting a Hopi Indian Kachina clown doll- a kind of jester or fool figure), the song finds Lydon meditating on his own mortality; a sobering awareness which informs all else here. Underpinned by an extended, eight minute long jam, it leaves one to only imagine the thoughts of a man who has SURVIVED as all around him have left the planet. R.I.P. Sid Vicious, John McGeoch, Malcolm McLaren. Perhaps this is EXACTLY the reason why P.i.L. devote their “message” to world Peace and tolerance and understanding? If it means our protagonist has mellowed in his old age well then, yes, he’s a better person for it. His music is still angry but the anger is tempered by self-realisation and positive thinking. It isn’t commercial but it is necessary. Indeed, as the world turns into shit through global warming, mass consumption and political/religious scheming, I can think of nothing more musically relevant to the 21st Century, currently, than this fine body of work from this fine body of men.
If I was nit-picking, I’d have liked a sample of the REAL “What The World Needs Now” incorporated somehow into “Shoom” (a la The Sex Pistols sample on “Acid Drops” from 1992). But it’s a minor quibble. This is what you want, this is what you get with any P.i.L. record: – tribal, hypnotic, trance-inducing sound (hell, P.i.L. were Trance even BEFORE Trance) coupled with John Lydon’s visions of world destruction/world redemption as seen through the microcosm of his bitter-sweet experiences in The Biz. Music for SURVIVORS, you might call it.
And the very last words go the man himself, “Even a toilet repair can bring world Peace, or peace off.”
Richie Rochdale’s verdict? A very SOLID 8 out of 10. Come back soon, chaps.