Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top 10 Drone/Ambient of 2005

Can't think of a better way to wrap up Drone-uary! As I mentioned in the "main/stream" Top 10 of 2005, not such a great year for new releases... unless you count the ambient-drone-noise axis. As I was going through my iTunes collection, it was apparent that most of the stuff I was considering was on this list (and the next). I really had to stretch the first one - leaving off some marginal "bigger" albums, including some better local releases, confusing one EP's release year. This one is some good stuff, although it also stretches the genre labels a bit.

Also, I'm changing up the format of the entries slightly. Mostly just the order of links, but mainly the addition of non-iTunes places to purchase .mp3 downloads (for all you iTunes haters). Plus including links to albums on Lala, where available. (I'll try to retroactively update previous Top 10's, listed at right in the control module.)

#10 Jesu - Jesu

"We All Faulter" from Jesu (2005)

Genre - Shoegaze Ambient Metal
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Wales, UK

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Jesu
Purchase - Hydra Head Records

First post-meltdown LP from main Head of David/Godflesh dude. This is probably the biggest stretch, what with the drums and vocals and distorted guitars. But a lot of it is droney, dirgey. Some is more trad, maybe shoegaze style. A good "rock" intro to one element of the drone equation.

#9 The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box - V/A

The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box
"Bufo Periglendes (Golden Toad) Parts I-III" [conclusion] by Bardo Pond, from The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box (2005)

Genre - Compiled Psych and Ambient and Drone and Noise and Minimalism plus et cetera...
Official - Last Visible Dog Records
Location - Various Artists

Review - Foxy Digitalis (10/10!!)
Download - Amazon, , iTunes
Lala - The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box
Purchase - LVD Records (cheaper than MP3!)

Six-disc compilation of name-brand noises, each paying extensive tribute to our fallen comrades: extinct species. It's really actually too much, especially given some of the songs/suites' lengths. More of a sampler to dip occasionally into, check out something here and there - maybe when you hear about a band or something related. Noteworthy contributors are: Psychedelphia icons Bardo Pond, Kiwi experimenter Birchville Cat Motel, Italo-duo My Cat Is An Alien, one-woman Phila. free(k)-folk Fursaxa, spastic Finn Tomutonttu, and more Finnoise from Uton. Believe me, not the final Finnish for today!

#8 Zome - White Rainbow

"Germany" from Zome (2005)

Genre - Psych-Drone
Myspace -
"Blog" (???) -
Location - Portland, OR

Review - Tiny Mix Tapes
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Zome
Purchase - States Rights Records

Only had this one a week, and it's apparently really early stuff done as White Rainbow, for his (then?) girlfriend Valet. But I like the record, though it's odd - with its singing and all. For the video, I kind of lazily manipulated a couple of images for possibly the least representative WR song of all. But it's pretty short and kinda Krauty, and the Bardo Pond epic was a lot for now.

#7 Black Oni - Guapo

Black Oni
"II" from Black Oni (2005)

Genre - Contemporary Avant-Zeuhl
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Ipecac Records, Amazon , iTunes
Lala - Black Oni
Purchase - Amazon

As with any Zeuhl, you'll get nothing of one-thing on any one album (or song). However, the martial rollercoaster of "II" is the least ambient and most Magmaesque. But it's the only thing on YouTube and I'm done movie-making for the weekend... Guapo made the awesome Twisted Stems (#2, 2006). This has parts that approach those heights, and parts that never do. Still better than half the previous list.

#6 The Giallos Flame - The Giallos Flame

The Giallos Flame
"Giallos Flames" from Violent Professionals (2007)

Genre - Horror Soundtrack Italo
Official/Myspace -
Location - Dunwich-on-Lovecraft, U.K.

Review - The Metal Forge
Download - others at iTunes, Amazon
Lala - other Giallos Flame
Purchase - Amazon, others at Giallos Flame blog

Giallos Flame hits the Italian '70s exploitation/horror soundtrack sound much more than Zombi gets tagged with it. This is the debut, but their/his output is remarkably consistent... and great. The funk, the organ, the vibe. Like the inspirational work it builds on, you can hear how it would fit into a film ("The Getaway," "Jazz Killer," and "Crime Squad" kick off this record), but also enjoy on its own merits. Here's a cool interview for more insight.

#5 Stories for Owls - Badgerlore

Stories for Owls
"Stone Stick Earth Brick" from Stories for Owls (2005)

Genre - Freak-Folk Drone-Psych
Official/Myspace -
Location - Pacific Coast, USA

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - another Badgerlore album
Purchase - Amazon

Six-string improvisational all-star jams, mostly very low-key with a mellow dissonance. Includes the Six Organs of Admittance guy (#10, 2009), Tom Carter (#8, 2008) of Charalambides/The Mike Gunn, and one each from Deerhoof and Yellow Swans. Generally works better for close listening than in-the-background ambience. New record on Table of the Elements - due April 24!!

#4 1818-1991 - Somnivore

"Sought by Few, Scared by Many [Karelia, 1818]" from 1818-1991 (2005)

Genre - Dark Ambient
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Lapland/Finland

Review - Aural Pressure
Download/Purchase - Ltd. Ed. / OOP / unavailable...
Lala - Remix action

Very limited edition (60 copies!) of this debut release - can't remember where I got the audio. Thought it was, but now there's only one song located here. Maybe I was thinking of Houston's Tchrite, which isn't exactly similar really. Anyway, it's excellent ambient music with some kind of historical theme. Each song has a subtitle of a city and year, which I casually interpret as referring to wars, culture, industrialization, different things on different listens. Here, I'll look up the first one [Karelia, 1818]:
"Soviet power was established in November 1917-April 1918. Since the spring of 1918 Karelia had been an arena of the battles between the Red Army and the Byelaya Army and interventionists" (from the History of Karelia). Here's an interview with Somnivore. I love that The Library of Lapland owns a copy.

#3 Star Autopsy - Zoät-Aon

Star Autopsy
"Infra-Saturn & Exo" from Star Autopsy (2005)

Genre - Cosmic Noise-Ambient
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Oulu, Finland

Review - Aural Pressure
Download FREE live track - see 3 Dec 2009
Purchase - Aural Hypnox > Mail Order

Somehow vaguely related to Somnivore (#4), maybe that's how I found them. Whereas that project concerned the earthly, Zoät-Aon's terrain is the hyperverse. The machine-cycle-hum could be from spacecraft or the galactic axis. Occasional Ligeti-storms of Monolith noise-burst occlusion. A wormhole-tourism audio-pamphlet of alien topography, with field recordings of the fourth-dimensional, sun-eating birds of Arkh'torus XIV-b. Sounds like the apocalypse, or the universe being reborn.

#2 Lashing the Rye - Harvestman

Lashing the Rye
"Among the Heather" from Lashing the Rye (2005)

Genre - Mystical Pagan Pysch-Folk
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Review - Foxy Digitalis
Download - iTunes
Purchase - Neurot Recordings

The first album from Neurosis guitarist under the Harvestman moniker (next was #5, 2009). Some folk exploration, some heavy drones, some bagpipes, a whole lotta awesome! Approaches psychedelic instrumental guitar music from just about every angle, and then expands beyond.

#1 Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia - The Caretaker

Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia
"memories six & seven" from Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia (2005)

Genre - Hauntology
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Stockport, England (now Berlin)

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download FREE - Brainwashed

Another 6xCD package (on reissue), but this is all from one guy. It is mammoth: 72 tracks of ghostly reverie and/or dread. Especially if you tack on the 7th bonus disc (I sure did). Before The Caretaker, v/Vm dropped electro-dance prank-bombs. Since then, he's done something I'm getting to. These are sampled, treated, looped, distorted 78rpm records of old-timey British music, popular dancehall stuff from the early 20th c. The weight and corrosion of time are drawn out of the grooves and enhanced and fetishized. The Caretaker name is a reference to Kubrick's The Shining, with its elegant/horrific hauntings. The primary focus of the project was memory, in various aspects and applications. An online dictionary defines anterograde amnesia as: "A condition in which events that occurred after the onset of amnesia cannot be recalled and new memories cannot be formed." I really, really enjoy the music/audio here, but honestly that's the effect after listening to 72/84 tracks: I would be hard-pressed to distinguish a single outstanding "memory." Exact opposite of Badgerlore, almost mandatory as in-the-background. "Overwhelming artifact," indeed.

Apocalyptic Radios

Not the last word on ambient, but I'll take the calendar's turn of the page to shift focus in February.

Perdition Hill Radio
I got my package of Boomkat Hot Offers purchases this past week, and it includes some great stuff. But this is unexpectedly out of New Mexico (right next door!), so I didn't want to nod off and forget. The American Southwest is not your ambient hotbed, and so of course William Fowler Collins' Perdition Hill Radio (2009) is a gothic mix of drone, noise, country-blues touches, black metal menace, and narrative doom. It showed up on, among some others, Boomkat's Top Albums of 2009 (#98).

Here's a review worth checking out.

Type Records' description (link has streaming audio):
From the desolate hills of Albuquerque, New Mexico comes self-styled black ambient overlord William Fowler Collins. Brought up in New England and educated in San Francisco, the constant traveling has given his music a rare patience and focus and a distinct connection with the sprawling American landscape. Like Earth’s seminal ‘Hex’ before it, ‘Perdition Hill Radio’, his second full-length, invokes the ghosts of a lost America and drags the rotting carcass of country music through a swamp of noise and drone.

With a love of both experimental ambient music and ear-splitting black metal, Collins has arrived upon a grim hybrid of both. Black ambient might be the best description as this is neither one nor the other, inhabiting a lonely space in-between. The chugging, blown out treble and isolated darkness of Xasthur is all present and correct, but there are also echoes of William Basinski and Deaf Center hidden amongst the clouds of radio static. These rare cracks of beauty are what make ‘Perdition Hill Radio’ such an arresting listening experience, and what sets it apart from so much that has come before.

There is a shadowy link between the compositions of William Fowler Collins and fellow Type artists Svarte Greiner and Xela; all three share a similar fascination with the darker side of the ambient spectrum. Collins however manages to re-frame this darkness to suit the sun-baked mountain tops of New Mexico, and it’s all the bleaker for it. As crows circle an anonymous skeleton and brightly coloured lizards retreat into their dark corners, there could be no better soundtrack than this. Dark, doomy and with no escape from the pounding sun up above – ‘Perdition Hill Radio’ is a truly cinematic record.

Friday, January 29, 2010

How I Spent My Lala

When you sign up, you get 25 free songs (unlimited streaming listens, not downloads) - and one month to choose. Much like my iTunes giftcard "purchases," I wanted to use these wisely. Nothing I would be buying officially, nothing I would listen to only once.
O yeah, and maximum audio per credit, of course...

Jan 17: "Charlemagne & Pippin" (2009) by Black to Comm
1 track, 36 minutes long.

Picked this while being blown away by Alphabet 1968 (2009). I'd heard his other stuff was less song-oriented, but this was also released last year. Couldn't be more different: this is much more drone than the album. But I'll come back to it eventually.

Jan 19: "Landlocked" (2009) by Emeralds
1 track, 29 minutes long.

I posted this in the earlier Emeralds post. Seemed like a good pick, since it's not around to buy anywhere. And I've liked it as much as anything else I've heard from them. Score!

Jan 23: The Disintegration Loops (2003, 4xCD) by William Basinski
9 tracks, 5 hours of music.

Four cd's, at $13+ each (plus S&H), that I might pick up gradually under extreme conditions. Haven't even listened to it, but already this was the perfect choice. The story is interesting, worth reading, and convinced me the music would be worth exploring too. Pitchfork doesn't hand out 9.4 reviews to a ton of 4xCD ambient/drone projects, not that I'm aware of.

Jan 26: Ricochet (Live) (1973) by Tangerine Dream
2 tracks, 48 minutes.

I've never seen or even heard of this album. I'm not totally convinced by Alpha Centauri (1971) as of yet. So, I wanted to try something during the peak of TG's powers. Since I can drop into many stores and get Phaedra or Rubycon, I chose the live album. Also it's really sweet mid-'70s ambient Kraut synthscapes - live!!


Running out of time (and ideas), I used the last 12 songs to build a custom Astral Headspace Best of 2009 Lala playlist!! Sort of. Since my Lala ID is "Astral Headspace," maybe some listeners will stumble over here...

Best of 2009

Maybe I should have picked up some Abruptum??

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 10 New Releases of 2005!

What a craptacular year for new releases! Kanye West was real big, M.I.A. was tearing up the electronic scene, Antony and The Johnsons was dominating the indie world. There were other albums that are probably pretty good, if I'd listened to them (Decemberists, Franz Ferdinand, Mountain Goats) - but I didn't. And there were a bunch of disappointing albums by bands I usually like (Dandy Warhols, Queens of the Stone Age, and especially Mercury Rev). Ugh.

So, I'll just overcompensate and make three lists. This is the "main" one, but the least of the three. For the most part, these are Top 10 new release studio albums of 2005 - for what it's worth...
[Two more/better 2005 lists coming in awhile!]

#10 Hopelessly Incapable of Standing in the Way - Spain Colored Orange

Hopelessly Incapable of ...
"Hide" from Sneaky Like A Villain (2009)

Genre - Indie Space-Jazz Pop
Official/Myspace -
Location - Houston, TX

Review - Pop Matters
iTunes - Spain Colored Orange
Purchase - Amazon

Warners control the YouTube for this album, so even these local fellows can't post music from their debut. So, we return to Lala land:

#9 Jest & Earnest - The Mathletes

Jest & Earnest
"2003 (The Year Punk Pranced), I Hate Math, Anime Convention" from Jest & Earnest (2005)

Genre - Silly Indie-Pop
Official/Myspace -
Location - Houston, TX

Review - Adequacy
iTunes - a different Mathletes album
Purchase - seems OOP

I've always kinda liked The Mathletes, Joe Mathlete being the prolific singer-songwriter of cute 'n' funny dorkiness. This is the only one I've bought, though: a sprawling double-CD, which perfectly encapulates the endless spillage of the humorously mundane and romantic. "Let's Read Pitchfork Together Everyday"... "I Will Melt Your Heart (With Lasers)"... "Hugglefaeries vs. Bog Wolves."

#8 Twin of Pangaea - Where the Moon Came From

Twin of Pangaea
"Pangaea, Pts. 1 & 2" from Twins of Pangaea (2005)

Genre - Psychedelic Rock
Official/Myspace -
Location - Chicago, IL

Review - Stoner Rock
Download FREE - Rock Proper

I got this from the net label, Rock Proper, and it's worth checking out (free). About like Snailface, but more psych and crazy. And $36 gets you a Ltd Ed (of 100) colored-vinyl/gatefold package. (I'd check it out the download first.)

#7 Face The Truth - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Face The Truth
"Baby C'mon" from Face The Truth (2005)

Genre - Rock 'n' Roll
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Portland, OR

Review - Stylus Magazine
iTunes - Stephen Malkmus
Lala - Face The Truth
Purchase - Matador Records

You might know him as a former member of Pavement. Was never a huge fan, maybe one day. I like his solo stuff pretty well, but have most gotten into Pig Lib (2003). Still, in 2005, this was a contender!

#6 Love Kraft - Super Furry Animals

Love Kraft
"Lazer Beam" from Love Kraft (2005)

Genre - Pop-Prog Psychedelic Indie Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Wales, U.K.

Review - Treble Zine
iTunes - Super Furry Animals
Lala - Love Kraft
Purchase - Amazon

Like Malkmus, I give a slight nod to the predecessor, Phantom Power (2003), but this is actually a terrific album. Definitely recommended to those who like catchy songs with psychedelic vibes and some light proggy flavors.

#5 Z - My Morning Jacket

"It Beats 4 U" from Z (2005)

Genre - Electro-Reverb Southern-Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Louisville, KY

Review - The A.V. Club
iTunes - My Morning Jacket
Lala - Z
Purchase - Amazon

Hey, guess what? I prefer their previous album from 2003, It Still Moves. This is the first one where they move away from the straight-up echo-drenched southern rock. Z is very probably a better album, but it was getting closer to what other people were doing. Whereas I wasn't (an amn't) hearing much good music in It Still Moves' style.

#4 Damn! EP - Emperor Penguin

Damn! EP
"Disco Party in the Castle of Love (Tonight)" [live] from Damn EP (2001)

Genre - Electro-Party Synth-Funk
All Music Guide - Biography
Location - Chicago, IL

Review - Fakejazz
iTunes - Emperor Penguin
Lala - Damn EP
Purchase - My Pal God Records

We'll get deeper into this one's story, soon. There's got to be some reason I had this as 2005. Maybe a re-release, but it's too late now: it's in. I needed a segue...

#3 Sonic Prayer - Earthless

Sonic Prayer
"Sonic Prayer" [live] from Sonic Prayer (2005)

Genre - Heavy Jam
Official/Myspace -
Location - San Diego, CA

Review - Prog Archives
iTunes - Earthless
Lala - Sonic Prayer
Purchase - Relapse Records

The debut of Earthless, and worth getting. But I'm gonna flip it around here and suggest the subsequent albums first. Quite a twist, eh? They are still endlessly jamming, squalling guitars and raging drums.

#2 Kraut Lok - Space Debris

Kraut Lok
"Bolivia" from Kraut Lok (2005)

Genre - Kraut Jam
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Review - Towards the bottom...
Download FREE samples - from MP3.DE
Purchase - All That Is Heavy

I like all the Space Debris I've heard, and this is no exception. Now if I could just watch the dvd! Excellent guitar-organ-drums trio, cosmic space-rock jamming, out of any consideration for modern times. Great stuff! (Lala sure would come in handy here.)

#1 Bubble City - Pong

Bubble City
"Secret Meat" from Bubble City (2005)

Genre - Space Rock to the Party
Official -
Myspace -
Location – Austin, TX

Review - Austin Chronicle
iTunes - Bubble City
Purchase - cdBaby

Awesome, awesome band. Terrific record! Spacey, krauty, synth and rockin' jams. I liked the debut, but had to admit there was some serious filler action. This one's all killer.

Right as I was about to post, I remembered that a couple of years back, I helped Pong (#1) get The Mathletes (#9) as an opening act here in Houston. Even did the flyer!!

Pong/Mathletes flyer 12-01-2007

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whaddya Mean, Black Metal?

Norway. Vikings, right? Well, what if - just as a thought experiment - what if instead of axes, Vikings had "axes?" Y'know, electric guitars. What kind of music you think they'd make? Maybe Led Zeppelin had it right. "Immigrant Song" would be a great soundtrack for pillaging! But you forget: no axes. So, if Vikings had to actually roll in a concert PA set up, and pillage foreign lands via the music... what then? Black. Metal.

A brief run-down of the stylistic and thematic elements of Black Metal. Evil: evil sounds, evil thoughts, evil deeds. Guitars: abrasive and trebly, no riffs or solos, sustained chords or repetitive tremolo-picking (rapid single-note drones). Drums: technique from the ridiculous to the sublime, often employing blast-beats (rapid single-drum accents). Vocals: demonic, high-pitched gurgle to wailing shriek (not much growling). Themes: alienation from and rejection of modern society, especially the invading, foreign ideology of meek submission, Christianity. Evil.

The Foundation - First wave
1980's. That's right! This is where it all began. Extreme metal was just beginning to one-up the NWOBHM. Metallica would bear the standard for an American underground. But the foreigners were doing some completely different stuff. It wasn't there yet, but archaeologically, it was.

Venom – "Black Metal" – Black Metal (1982)
The song and/or album title that gave the whole genre's name. These guys were notorious jokers, though... which apparently wasn't inherited. (UK)

Celtic Frost – "Into the Crypt of Rays" – Morbid Tales (1984)
One of the coolest band names, and they weren't even Celtic. (Switz)

Hellhammer – "Messiah" – Apocalyptic Raids (1984)
Possibly the most influential, earliest musical roots for it all. (Switz)

Sarcofago – "INRI" – INRI (1987)
These guys apparently feuded with Sepultura. This country isn't big enough for both of us! Hilarious, scary. (Brasil)

Bathory – "For All Those Who Died" – Blood Fire Death (1988)
And here's where the classic/standard BM vocals all begin. (Swede)

Trve [kvlt] Norwegian Black Metal - 2nd wave
Those crazy kids in Norway. They created an all-new monster from the body parts strewn around the laboratory. And when they weren't inventing a new type of metal, they were burning down churches and killing each other.

Burzum – "Jesu Død" [full] – Filosofem (1993)
Solo project of Varg Vikernes, he would combine the cold sterility of home recording with ambient approaches. Thus expanding the palate beyond purely metal sounds. (Nor)

Mayhem – "Freezing Moon" – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994)
The iconic Norwegian Black Metal band. Original lead singer, Dead, killed himself. Rumors abound about what bandmates did before authorities were summoned: brain stew, skull fragment pendants, a quick run to buy a disposable camera. Guitarist Euronymous ran the Oslo record store that the scene coalesced around. He was killed by bassist Varg. They're still going, without any of those three obviously. (Nor)

Emperor – "I Am The Black Wizards" – Into the Nighttime Eclipse (1994)
So awesome!! (Nor)

Darkthrone – "En Ås I Dype Skogen" – Transilvanian Hunger (1994) (Nor)
The main originator of intentionally low-fi recording approach as a Black Metal aesthetic. (Nor)

Immortal – "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)" – Battles in the North (1995)
Immortal are terrific, and ridiculous. Much like this awesome video, which was influential on early waves of BM videos. I can watch it over and over! (Nor)

Finland/Sweden - so close!
Beherit – "Sadomatic Rites" – Drawing Down the Moon (1993)
Somewhat experimental for this time period, using synths and all. I honestly don't know a lot about this band. (Fin)

Abruptum – [10 minutes of…] Obscuritatem Advoco Amplectére Me (1993)
On the outer edges of experimental for Black Metal in general, going to very Noise areas. Album-long tracks, crazy sounds. Main guys go by IT and ALL. (Swede)

Marduk – "Glorification of the Black God" – Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered (1996)
Never really listened to much Marduk either. Blasphemous blackened Death, but what isn't these days? Yet another BM band to take an ancient civilization's deity name for themselves. (Swede)

Judas Iscariot – "Spill the Blood of the Lamb (Special Blitzkrieg Version)" – Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten EP (2000)
Judas Iscariot. Spill the Blood of the Lamb. Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten. I mean, come on... (USA)

Absu – "Pillars of Mercy" – Tara (2001)
Plano, TX. Mythological Occult Metal. These guys are ruthlessly awesome, at least in the 21st century! (USA)

It's all true...

Black Metal ist Krieg
Beyond the Second Wave...
Bands start breaking from the pack, exprimenting with punk sounds, industrial sounds, symphonic crap, crazy political ideas. Black Metal begins to lose its "purity of essence."

Nargaroth – "Black Metal ist Krieg" – Black Metal ist Krieg (2001)
Title has become quite the rallying cry, as you might imagine. I think it's the only thing I know about Nargaroth at all. (Ger)

Anaal Nathrakh – "The Supreme Necrotic Audnance" – The Codex Necro (2001)
They had me at the Excalibur references, but I really dig this band. They mix in other heaviness, like Death, Grind, and Industrial. Good stew. (UK)

Aborym – "With No Human Intervention" – With No Human Intervention (2003)
According to Wikipedia, they call it "hard/black alien industrial metal," which seems only fair. I like this band also, although I'm not familiar with their post-Attila stuff. (Nor/Ita)

Hate Forest – "Domination" – Purity (2003)
Nationalistic BM. Aryan, Nietzschean, but also Slavic. (Ukraine)

Dimmu Borgir – "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" – Death Cult Armageddon (2003)
Hey, I don't like it any more than you do, but Symphonic Black Metal refuses to not exist. (Nor)

Folk BM
Several bands go the opposite direction, incorporating non-BM roots into their music.

Windir – "Saknet (The Longing)" – Arntor (1998)
This is a good album. The main guy died a few years later, wandering the Norwegian forest in winter. Black Metal. (Nor)

Melechesh – "Genies Sorcerers And Mesopotamian Nights" – Djinn (2001)
From Jerusalem. Drummer from Absu was with them for a few years. That's all I know right now. (Isr)

Drudkh – "Furrows of Gods" – Blood In Our Wells (2006)
Some overlap with Hate Forest, but somewhat more folkloric than straight nationalism. Although it's more like modern national heroes, poets, etc... (Ukr)

Mount Eerie
The center cannot hold...
It's like no-one actually plays true Norwegian-style Black Metal anymore. And honestly, it becomes more interesting. Sonic experimentation, theoretical concepts, personal expression, pretty sections. Nothing's too crazy anymore!

Blut Aus Nord – "Our Blessed Frozen Cells" – The Work Which Transforms God (2003)
BAN recently returned from the industrial experiments to their Black Metal roots. New album is great: #11 Metal Next 10! (Fr)

Deathspell Omega – "Carnal Malefactor" – Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (2006)
Academically rigorous metaphysical investigations into the teleological underpinnings of Satanism. For real. (Fr)

Xasthur – "Prison of Mirrors" – Subliminal Genocide (2006)
So sad. (USA)

Wolves in the Throne Room – "The Cleansing" – Two Hunters (2007)
Subject of the original Black Metal classic post. Black Metal + ambient beauty = hit parade!! (USA)

Krallice – "Wretched Wisdom" – Krallice (2008)
The newcomers. Technical and urban, rather than scuzzy and wooded. (USA)

2009 (or just more recently)
Mount Eerie – "Wind’s Dark Poem" – Wind’s Poem (2009)
And now we get to where we are now. A mumbling indiexperimental singer-songwriter kinda digs Black Metal, and incorporates it into his new album. Sounds good, great press! (USA)

And here's more newer stuff from bands already covered:
Beherit – "Axiom Heroine" – Engram (2009)

Immortal – "Norden on Fire" – All Shall Fall (2009)

Blut Aus Nord – The Cosmic Echoes of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices of the Fathers)" – Memoria Vetusta II: A Dialogue with the Stars (2009)

Absu – "Night Fire Canonization" – Absu (2009)

Wolves in the Throne Room – "Ahrimanic Trance" – Black Cascade (2009)

Marduk – "Accuser, Opposer" – Rom 5:12 (2007)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Doombient

Looks like it's a free music weekend! The Sunday installment is in two parts...

Demdike Stare
First up is Demdike Stare's Moving Metals mix. I bought their limited edition mix cd, Osmosis (2010), and so far this sounds pretty similar. Dark ambient, mixed with '70s Euro soundtrack, cut with Asia Minor disco-dub and whatever else bubbles up. Kinda of like Giallos Flame jamming with Beyond the Wizards Sleeve and Black to Comm.

Listen to it with this thing and/or hit "Download" to nab your own copy. It's in an Apple .aiff lossless format - which iTunes will import (and convert to .mp3).

"Jannisary" from Symbiosis (2009)

I'll probably pick up their first cd, Symbiosis, at some point. But a couple of hour-long mixes should be sufficient for now. I also got "Suspicious Drone" as part of the Hauntology 14-Tracks mp3 comp. Ltd-ed Osmosis currently available: here.

I was going to drop VØID's self-titled album in with Sebadoh, just to keep the drone rolling. But I hadn't listened to it yet. And despite going by voiddrone, it's really more extended, drone-ish doom metal. They're Italian, and it's worth checking out. Maybe not worth the €10,00 for the deluxe packaging from Hanged Man Records. But you can hear the song's on VØID's Myspace page, or just d/l the whole album which they promo free...

Download link from Myspace. Rapidshare wouldn't complete for me, but Megaupload worked okay.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This post is about The Antlers.

This is kind of companion post to the earlier on about how I spent my iTunes xMas giftcard. A day or two before Pitchfork started posting their Top 50 Albums of 2009, I bought 3 cd's as Christmas gifts. All three at the same record store, and all three ended up making the list. One was about what I'd have suspected, one was suprising in its rank (though not its inclusion), and one was a surprise to even appear.

"1901" Phoenix busking in front of La Tour Eiffel

I'd pretty much figured that Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (#8) by Phoenix would be in the top 10. They handed out an 8.5 review, and I heard a lot about Phoenix and this album for much of the year. Only the use of their song in a Cadillac commercial would surprise me. At least a little, but they do have a catchy, pop-laden non-alt rock-n-roll hook to them.

"Stillness is the Move" from Bitte Orca (2009)

I'd have staked serious money on the Dirty Projectors' more arty, "challenging" album, Bitte Orca, making the list. They were critical darlings and punching-bags this year, but #2?!?! I mean, Pitchfork loves them some weirdo music (9.2 review), but Animal Collective was already coming at #1. It's like, didn't these guys work with White Rainbow? I mean, wasn't their previous album a collection of indie-barbershop/lounge-prog Black Flag covers? Whatever, dude. This post is about The Antlers.

"Two" by The Antlers, from Hospice (2009)

Okay, so they got a 8.5 review, but it was a quiet 8.5! I still wasn't expecting Hospice at #37... an ambient-noise-folk-ballad-pop concept album about love, abortion, cancer, attempted suicide and death?? The Antlers had been one guy, but are now a band. I'd found hearty recommendations in a place with much more overlap with Pitchforkbacklash than with common purpose. So, its inclusion at not-totally-bottom-rung levels was a suprise to me. Just wait!

So, fast-forward a couple of weeks... when Pitchfork put up its 2009 Readers Poll. DP at #3 (-1), Phoenix at #4 (+4), and Hospice at #8 (+29)! Whaaa? The Yeah Yeah Yeah's It's Blitz jumped from the official #12 to #10, but otherwise the readers' matched the site's Top 10. So, it's somewhat of a minor revolution - kinda.

Anyway, the artwork kind of gives you an idea where we're headed. Since it's a concept album with a whole story and everything, lyrics start on page 3. Overall, I'd describe it as naked bludgeoning by painful vulnerability. The songwriter is unabashed by excess emotionality, no nerve to raw to sandpaper. The vocals usually mixed so low that it forces attention. Even the histrionic screaming seems whispered, and actually most of the singing is pretty well whispered. With lyrics so literal and brutally direct that it creates the weird effect of calling attention to any occasional subtlety.

The music's your basic indie-pop of the acoustic variety: guitar and piano mostly, with a rhythm section mostly. But then there's more layered on, variously effects, noise, brass section bombast, combinations of things... Field recordings, for all I know. It's overall pretty good. The singer does go on and on, but it gives it a sense of urgency. Like he desperately needs to get it all out. I've only listened to it through once (tonight, for this) - but there's definitely something going on. And I can see why people respond to it, although it's not totally in my wheelhouse style-wise.

"Kettering" from Hospice (2009)

Over the past couple of weeks, I've noticed it on a few year-end lists I wouldn't have predicted - or at levels unexpected: I Don't Care About Sleep (#3), Stereogum (#8), The A/V Club (#11), Paste Magazine (#17). And finally, some website I just found called (#4). You can't get more authoritative than that URL!!

Just thought it was worth mentioning, since I'd noticed it.

The Return of Free Music!!

Check it out - I think the palate has been cleansed (a bit), so let's set the wayback machine to awesome.

Been saving this for awhile, but one of the great heroes of the '90s has a bunch of live stuff available for download. Sebadoh! Including full shows, going back to 1991 (year of the seminal Sebadoh III), also including the full 2004 KRVX appearance (see previous Free post on that).

Debut album
[Click the debut album to
access Sebadoh live stuff!

Sebadoh had tons of great songs, and many great albums. Seriously. Here are a few highlights:

"Gimme Indie Rock" single (1991)

A true anthem for the times!

"Brand New Love" from Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock (1992)

A song from Weed Forestin (1990) - which was collected with The Freed Man (1989) for The Freed Weed cd - redone for one of two EP's (Sebadoh vs. Helmet), edited down for their debut Sub-Pop album. That's just the way Sebadoh rolled... great song. Record includes a Nick Drake cover, and a David Crosby one.

"Cliche" from Bubble & Scrape (1993)

Some might have gone with "Soul and Fire," but this has the Dinosaur-baiting of "There never really is a good time..."

"Magnet's Coil" from Bakesale (1994)

And Lou Barlow finds the perfect metaphor for himself: "wound tighter than a..."

"On Fire" from Harmacy (1996)

I almost put up the turrible video for "Willing to Wait," but I count this as where Sebadoh (and Barlow in particular) kind of locked into a groove. Stable, less noisy, and ultimately more one-dimensional than the preceding chaos.

"As the World Dies, the Eyes of God Grow Bigger" final track from Sebadoh III (1991)

The preceding chaos.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dreamy Grouper

Part-time with Badgerlore, full-time solo as Grouper, grand duchess of the split-album, and queen of the dream-folk: Liz Harris!

Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill (2008) plus...

I'd heard her name involved with some things, but saw Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill (2008) on Boomkat's Hot Offers (WHILE STOCKS LAST!) for £4! There's some other good bargains there, even with international shipping.

So, I checked it out - and it's pretty, floating, dreamy, narcotic folk. Submerged, subterranean, subconscious... Apparently a bit more vocally direct than her previous work. But that probably made it a good place to start. Short story shorter, I picked it up and suggest checking it out. I put the YouTube playlist together, and only had to add one song. It has some other stuff after that album, including a couple of tracks on a newer split with Roy Montgomery.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Amorphous Synth Burble

Part 2 of two, covering some different style synth action. Whereas Jonas Reinhardt (see previous) pulsed directly to the heart of matters, Ohio's Emeralds diffuse everything to an extreme.

Emeralds give Pocahaunted (we're getting to them) a run for the money in terms of productivity. "Landlocked" is their half of a tour split with Pain Jerk (Japanoise). There's some kind of Side A/B tour cassette, and a limited/OOP 12". Plus a full cd album, and maybe others... And that's just 2009!

"Geode" from Emeralds (2009)

That's from the self-titled vinyl record. In the Best of 2009 lists, it was odd how often someone would list either only that one or only the cd release, but seldom both. I've only got the cd...

"Alive in the Sea of Information" from What Happened (2009)

Now, getting to the music! Deploying the Harmonium line-up (2x synth, 1 guitar), Emeralds apparently just improvises on and on and on... Then they pick out the best stuff and that's their material. I mentioned how you won't lose where you are within Jonas Reinhardt. Well, you're very probably going to lose your way in the world of Emeralds - regularly. Song sections barely exist or move, pieces just drift to the surface temporarily before submerging. Most often not noisy, it's from another even more ambient part of the Krautsynth heritage. And honestly, sometimes it's New Age sounding, or it can remind me of Paul Simonon talking about his brother listening to Yes. "I lifted up the headphones, and there were just birds twittering." He wasn't being complimentary.

I'm not entirely sure yet. I like some of it already, sometimes it seems like stuff I could like with some close listening, and sometimes it just seems like messin' around. But even if just messin' around, they're undeniably pretty good at it.

Just checked their discography: in 2009, there were actually two tour cassettes, plus a split-cassette, and another 7" I didn't mention in the original summary. Plus lots of stuff in the previous few years, plus apparently the three guys are pretty active in releasing solo and side projects.

What Happened

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Euphonious Kraut Metronomy

Part one of two in a series of synth stabs!

Jonas Reinhardt (the album)
So, I finally got the Jonas Reinhardt self-titled album - different than the iTunes EP. The EP is a single for "Modern By Nature's Reward," which I've posted a couple of times already.

I recycled some unused videos for Shawn Lee (curse you, Warner Bros!), and now here's a song from each of these great releases.

"How to Adjust People" from Jonas Reinhardt (2008)

I think I've decided this was the song that was playing before Maserati's set. The whole story of how I learned about the group can now be told! I was just sitting around, waiting... and waiting... when a new song on the PA really caught my ear. After checking it out a bit, I decided that I needed to figure out who and what it was.

The only person around to ask was the guy working the merch table, so I went over and asked him if the pre-Maserati music was the club's or the band's. He said it was the band's, and answered my question about the song playing that it was "some German guy" or "some guy with a German name." I suggested Klaus Shulze and Irmin Schmidt, I think. And he thought maybe it was one or the other.

Just about that time, I recognized the drummer walking through the room, and went and asked him. He was really enthusiastic to tell me it was Jonas Reinhardt, and not a guy - but a band with a guy's name! Anyway, great story over.

"Downright Cabal" from Modern By Nature's Reward EP (2008)

I'm pairing this post with the next in the series to contrast some aspects of synthesizer-based approaches. So, Jonas Reinhard is on the structured, rhythmically Krauty end of the comparison. Their songs jump out fairly groove-y, do a few things really well, keep it movin', then wrap it all up. Although they're trippy-esque, you don't really lose where you are in the whole thing. I get a lot out of their use of sequencer arrays for the beats. Sounds good!

Even live!!

Next up... a different part of the synth-music topography.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Drone/Industrial Complex

I'm really excited about finding this terrific radio show/downloadable podcast, aptly named "Klang!!" As I was writing this, I realized that based on the language, I'd assumed it was Finnish - or some kind of Scandinavia. When I went to check exactly where, I was stunned to find it broadcast from a Turkish radio station, Açık Radyo (94.9), Sunday nights at 1am GMT+2. I think that calculates to Saturday evenings at 5pm CST. Right on!!

Very possibly, you're uninteresed in this stuff. I can dig it. But it's undeniably amazing that I went looking for a listen to an obscure vinyl-only re-release, Bugskull's Communication (1997), and found it on an Istanbul radio show that I could download. Klang's End of year list 2009 includes three of my year-enders (Isis, WITTR and Æthenor), one that I've already covered in 2010 (Black to Comm), and a couple we're inching towards (it's a suprises). Turkish noise/drone radio is in league with Iranian Depressive Black Metal for sheer epicness.

Less on the unexpected side of things are a couple of standard web publications that I've been perusing with interest. I've linked to some reviews from Foxy Digitalis before, and it's related in some way to Digitalis Industries record label (re-releasers of Bugskull's record). Their non-listy 2009 round-up is good readin', with many contributors laying out their individual bests in various categories. I like the approach and helpful mini-review summaries.

Then there's Brainwashed, which hosts The Caretaker's site with tons of Free Music. They also took a different approach, apparently only posting a Readers Poll for 2009, then having contributors chime in on the albums and ranks. Another nice way to break up the usual monotony. (Unfortunately, I don't have readers or contributors!!) The readers' #1? Sunn O)))'s Monoliths & Dimensions...

Monoliths & Dimensions
I am on record that I half-consider Sunn O))) a prank on the critical community and thus their audience. And I should be resistant due to my confidence of Merriweather Post Pavilion's overratedness, in the face of near unanimity. But I'll admit to being a bit worn down by the widespread M&D love. I remember thinking "Alice" sounded like an improvement, but maybe I need to give it another spin...
I can admit when/if I'm wrong.

Oop! Allow me to edit one more in. It's an .mp3 blog, and the list is a little cluttered with HTML tags, but: Glowing Raw.