30 April 2007

Holy shit. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Robert.

23 April 2007


More haunted audio, 'recalled' by The Caretaker. After last year's colossally impenetrable six-CD collection 'Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia' James Kirby returns with a more concise, more accessible (but no less confounding) collection of nebulous memoradelia on a double vinyl set care of Belgian label We/Me. This limited vinyl approach is the complete opposite of what James was doing last year with the free internet downloads and CD releases - this album is ultra-exclusive, ultra-brittle, and only about 300 listeners in the world will be able to experience it in it's intended form.

The decision to release on vinyl is significant. The music has been deliberately mastered at low level to encourage the build up of surface noise over time. This music is not meant to be enshrined in pristine digital clarity for all eternity, it is subject to entropy. The state of decay is part of the listening experience. This isn't as crazy as it sounds: I like old music to sound old - I'm not particularly keen on digital remasters. That's why I only listen to the pop music of my childhood via crackly 7" singles or my secret stash of K-Tel compilations, where 20 songs are crushed onto a single plate of wax, compressed and tinny, just like the way they sounded on MW transistor radios in the seventies.

While I'm on this subject, one of the things I find incomprehensible about the otherwise worthy Ghost Box label is that they insist on only releasing their music on CD, that invention of the Thatcherite eighties, completely at odds with the post-war British environment that they wish to invoke. It shouldn't be about convenience or unit costs - the format itself should be integral to the project. The other point about Ghostbox that I find mildly disconcerting is the way that they veer dangerously into the realms of pastiche, deliberately recreating the sonic signifiers of a bygone age, encouraging a cuddly sense of nostalgia. When they get it right, it can be profoundly affecting, but still I find the Caretaker's approach is braver. There's nothing you can really cling onto as specifically familiar (although if pushed I might make vague comparisons to "Zeit"-period Tangerine Dream or the 'Monolith' scenes in Kubrick's '2001 - A Space Odyssey'), it's more about creating an atmosphere, an aged tint, a ghostly non-place that induces reverie rather than a wry smile. A place where buried memories might leak out. The really brave aspect of The Caretaker project is that James puts his faith in the listener to map his or her own psyche across these drifting plains of amorphous choral harmonics and slivers of somnolent static. You only get out of it what you're prepared to put in. You wanna know what I get out of it? None of your damn business. Grab a copy while you can and start facing your own demons.

20 April 2007

The new viscosity...

19 April 2007


Substance & Vainqueur - Reverberation/Reverberate (Scion Versions)
Second release from the new Scion imprint, continuing the good work S & V started via Chain Reaction in the previous decade. Not much has changed - why mess with perfection? - the beats are ultra-minimal, acting as pure metronomic clicktrack for the obsessively processed chordal textures and chasm-like layers of ambient landscape. Listen intently for the subleties, or just let the whole thing float around you in a soul-cleansing mist of abstract emotion. Lush as fuck, standard.

Pendle Coven - Hex EP (Modern Love)
Love the name...conjures images of nocturnal sisterhood of Lancastrian witches...hints of ancient, evil secrets in hidden pockets of the English landscape. The music doesn't quite live up to that image, but this is a moody three-tracker with the foreboding 4/4 slammer 'Waveplate' taking-up side A, although it's 'Brittle Bones' on the flip that really caught my ear, with its stuttery, hyperactive electro vibe, overdriven bass warble and pensive slivers of reverberated synth. Final track 'Golden Hadron' takes the bpms right down and drifts through dank, stalactite-encrusted caves of dub refraction. Chilly...

Deadbeat - Version Immersion (~scape)
I'm still undecided on the new Pole album, but this EP from Stefen Betke's near-legendary Berlin imprint is hitting all the right erogenous zones. 'One.One.Five' and 'One.Two.Six' mine similar territory, with percussion-heavy grooves weighty sub bass, etc etc...

Patrick Pulsinger - Dogmatic Sequences III (Disco B)
Jesus, I was buying Patrick Pulsinger records ten+ years ago, yet here he is continuing the 'Dogmatic' series in '07 and the results are stupendous. Opener 'R0uleur' is a fucking crucial techno-thrash allied with some dutty bassline bizzniz that writhes 'n wobbles inna righteous dubstep stylee - my man Pulsinger is on the case! 'Looq' and 'Numb Thrust' maintain the headlong rush with slamming beats, chugging bass and rippling washes of synth-colour, but then - what the fuck is this?! - 'Transforming Language' hires in a live drummer and guitarist for some kinda jazz noodle freak-out. Head-scratcher or chin-stroker? Who knows, but let's not forget that Pulsinger pioneered that jazzy techno thing with his iO project (I still hear 'Claire' used in TV programs occasionally) so I guess that's a genuine aspect of his musical gene-pool. More power to him - he's the coolest goddam Austrain on the planet.

Cornell - Polimer/Flounce (Minimise)
Minimal, abstract, four-to-tha-fucking-floor, but I'm definately feeling a sly sense of humour lurking somewhere. 'Polimer' is a playful arrangement of tuned blips, swooshes, crackles and gasps that gradually works itself up into a disorientating lather , with sounds flying at you from all across the stereo field. Probably sounds scary as hell on drugs. The b-side is actually the more obviously catchy number, adding a resolute chord-riff for your frazzled psyche to cling onto, but still paying close attention to unexpected elements swooping from nowhere. Stealthy!

Move-D - Ac1d/Sheffield Dance (Modern Love)
Modern Love are so fucking on it, right now - practically every release is a must have. Here, David Moufang delivers two brilliantly individual slices of abstract dance, with 'Ac1d' held together by a nagging chord-stab and rocksteady kick drum, over which all manner of samples, synth oscillations and 707 drumkit weave a trippy spell. But its all about the flip for me - I mean, c'mon, calling the track 'Sheffield Dance' was bound to perk up the ears of an old bleep-junkie like myself. Clearly a homage of sorts to the original 1990-91 sound, but without descending into outright nostalgia, its wonderful to hear more fidgety 808 snare programming again. Lots of subby undertow and squelchy synth riffs make for a complex web of rhythm that bursts through the straightjacket of over-simplification that dogs a significant preportion of modern techno music. Hope this one has an influential effect...

Bovill - Differentiate EP (Meanwhile.)
Oh my god - how deep is this shit? Four tracks of sublime, precision-tooled perfection from the mysterious Mr. Bovill, care of the increasingly relevant Meanwhile imprint. Opener 'Rate Of Change' is a heavenly blend of clavinet chords, swooping Detroit pads and succulant bass undertow, held down by conservative yet stealthy 4/4 riddim, whilst 'Featheredge' gets lean with 808 rimshots, fluttering hi-hats and playful, life-affirming melodic phrases. On the flip, 'Making Time' is a harder track with hint of acid and more of those gorgeous , reverb-heavy chords, before 'Torque (2)' strips naked to the barest ingredients in quest of the minimal Holy Grail - damn, its so good it hurts! Buy it, play it, kiss it, cuddle it. Bovill, I love you...

14 April 2007


Highroad returns for it's third outing next month, and Chris has pulled out all the stops to cram in as many of Bristol's top-brass producers as possible. Top of the pile is the mighty Pinch, fresh from blowing minds on Mary Anne Hobbs' Radio 1 show with his Techno Vs. Dubstep mix - if you missed the live broadcast, check it here. Mining similar creative veins are Peverelist and Appleblim, plus Headhunter and Jakes reppin' the H.E.N.C.H axis and a rare live outing from Gatekeeper. Spearheading the future sound of Grime we got Joker and Blazey. Not forgetting Delsa playing...whatever the hell it is he plays (I just realised that, even though I've known him for ages, I've never actually seen or heard a Delsa mix!). For some reason, known only to himself, Chris has offered me a spot too, and of course I jumped at the chance, having not played out since last July. Funnily enough, I've actually got two gigs in May...but more on the other one shortly. Anyway, this is gonna be a fucking mental soundclash...I think everyone's gonna be paired-up back-2-back style, which means I'll probably be jostling over the decks with Delsa for the first hour. All happening at Cosies on Portland Square, on Saturday the 12th, for the stupidly cheap price of two quid. Jesus, that little venue is gonna be heaving - make sure to get there early to avoid disappointment!


Watch out for issue 19 of Fact magazine (it's free!) featuring a couple of small reviews by Yours Truly - my first writing to be published on real paper (not counting the odd missive on the letters page of Melody Maker, Uncut, Mojo, etc...). It's not the first time I've been invited to write reviews for the inkies, but this was the first offer I felt comfortable with. Fact is a bit of a blogger's playground, with regular contributions from K-Punk, Simon Silverdollar and Kek-W (who seems to have a monopoly on the dubstep reviews) so I felt they'd be more sympathetic to my amateurish enthusiasm. Having been used to writing slightly rambling blog posts of unpredictable length, it was a challenge to condense my thoughts into just seventy words per review, like trying to compose a perfect miniature. Hopefully they'll let me do it again sometime. Actually, I've already been asked to write an album review for the online version. Watch that space...