Saturday, March 27, 2010

Darkspace - Dark Space III (2008)

| Atmospheric Black Metal | Drone Doom |
| Dark Ambient |

What happens when you mix the best of Drone Doom with Black Metal music? The answer could vary from "awesomeness" to "mind-blowingness", or simply "Darkspace". One of the most unique and impressive Black Metal bands from the 00's, Darkspace's style is characterized by heavy, slow and powerfully saturated walls of overdriven guitars, epic eerie synthlines and drummings, and occasional howls and abyssal screams, mixed into a gigantic hazy atmosphere. The music's ambience is totally dark and cloudy, like a heavy storm during a solar eclipse, with all the abrasiveness from Black Metal, the weight from Drone Doom and the haunted atmosphere from Dark Ambient music. Reading a review like this, you might be totally thinking "fuck, that looks like some pretty massive stuff". Hell, it totally is.

Dark Space III is, guess what, their third album. A masterpiece of cosmic darkness, the III combines the elements from the previous ones, the chaotic and striking riffs from I and the slow and dense sounding of II, creating their magnum opus. At their peak and full strength, this sounds nothing less than soul-crushing. From the epic opener until the fifth track, the album is all powerful. But, on the final two tracks is where it really goes absolutely epic. From the evil synths, shrieking guitars and spoken words from 3.16 and through the heavy drumming, the dense riffage and the high-pitched guitar screams, the epic chants of synths and angst vocals of 3.17, these two tracks alone simply destroy everything you'd known about heavy and atmospheric music. Prepare your ears, this is some pretty massive stuff.

Catalog: AV-102 (Avantgarde Music)
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The Birthday Party - Hee-Haw (1988)

| Gothic Rock | Post-Punk | Noise Rock | Deathrock |

The initial tracks on Hee-Haw come from two of their earliest proper Birthday Party singles, "Mr. Clarinet" and "The Friend Catcher." Three other tracks included on the 1980 self-titled American-only compilation, the squealing sax and raunch of "Hats on Wrong," the slightly more straightforward punch and thrash of "Guilt Parade," and "Riddle House," surface as well. All showcase the violent, thrashing energy of the Party of legend perfectly; even the organ on "Mr. Clarinet" sounds like it's being strangled as much as being played. Cave may be in utterly hyperdramatic mode throughout, spitting out barks on "Happy Birthday" and braying out the title call on the slow, brilliant burn of "The Friend Catcher," but the band aren't holding back either; Howard's spindly, aggro guitar work complements Calvert's drum punch nicely, balancing nerves and body slam, while Pew and Harvey flesh out everything else in the same spirit. Things aren't quite on the level of sheer sonic pain of later releases, but with the help of engineer Tony Cohen, who brings out the overall performances well, the fivesome is already well on its curious way. The last five songs come from the original Hee-Haw EP, which was also the final Boys Next Door release. While not quite as frazzled as what the group would soon fully mutate into, the tracks do have a more pushing, discordant air than the earlier Boys tracks, Cave still hesitant at points but starting to let go a bit elsewhere. "Faint Heart" has a great breakdown into random vocal mumblings and instrumental nuttiness, especially on piano, while "The Hair Shirt" especially is already the Birthday Party in anything but name.

Catalog: CAD 307 CD (4AD)
Album Overview on Allmusic
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Albert Ayler - The Hilversum Session (1964) [2007]

| Avant-Garde Jazz | Free-Jazz |

The Hilversum Session by Albert Ayler is one of those legendary recordings in free jazz. It was recorded in a Netherlands radio studio in front of a small invited audience, at the end of the Ayler Quartet's European tour on November 9, 1964. The band -- Ayler, Don Cherry, Gary Peacock, and Sunny Murray -- had been playing Ayler's tunes for months and were uncanny in their ability to hear one another and improvise together at that point. It was also the last time the group would record together under Ayler's name as a quartet, and they went out at a peak. The recording itself remained unissued until 1980 when it appeared on an LP on the long-defunct Osmosis label. It made a brief appearance on CD on the Coppens imprint before the most recent edition -- and likely its final home on the ESP-Disc label (which has also acquired the rights to the Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962-70) box set originally released by Revenant). Most of the tunes were, and remain, fairly common Ayler creations. "Ghosts" was recorded numerous times in 1964, and "Spirits" first appeared on Witches & Devils but also appeared on a record with the same title; both appeared on Spiritual Unity; while the tune "C.A.C," is actually the original title for the cut "The Wizard," also from Spiritual Unity. According to the liner notes, the closing number "No Name" was added as a coda to the infamous "Bells," issued in 1965, and in its relatively melodic beauty reveals another dimension to the fierce but inspiring improvisation by this quartet, who would take Ayler's skeletal melodies and move them to the margins of musical language itself. "Infant Happiness," by Cherry, is the only piece not authored by Ayler. The saxophonist kicks it off before he is joined by the trumpeter near the end of bar four in a knotty but wonderfully nursery rhyme-like melody that is reminiscent of the music Cherry had played with his former and future boss Ornette Coleman. This set is a defining moment, not just historically, but musically. The intense listening and interplay that goes on here is inspiring. Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray may have played better elsewhere, but they never played with the kind of deep communication they enjoyed together as a rhythm section and with other front-line players than they do here. Ayler is no longer striving to find the outer limits of spiritual expression in his music; it's all on display here, and Cherry, the inveterate and outrageously talented listener/musician is in full bloom, untethered as a soloist, yet, like the other three, remaining an inextricable part of a band. These cats play together with the kind of intuition and foresight only a seasoned group can; they understand the nuances of the language they are speaking and know how to offer those to the listener emotionally, musically, and even culturally. Finally, as for the sound of the recording, it has never been better. The remastering job is excellent, providing excellent fidelity and balance -- not always the case on the ESP-Disc offerings in the past. Included in the package are fine liner notes by Russ Musto, and a neat poster of Ayler.

Catalog: ESP 4035 (ESP Disk)
Album Overview on Allmusic
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Masayoshi Urabe ( 浦邊雅祥 ) - Ware Wa Seidai No Kyōjyō Zo ( 我は聖代の狂生ぞ ) (2003)

| Experimental | Free-Jazz | Ambient | Noise |

Masayoshi Urabe is a well-known japanese master of avant-garde jazz. Specialized on playing abstract alto-saxophone, he has worked together with a lot of other musicians, including the band Kousokuya. Before start the talking about Ware Wa Seidai, I got to point that this is one of the most abstract music I've heard. Urabe is found here playing a big variety of non-standard instruments and standard instruments in a non-standard way. Metal joins, glasses, chains, blades... he uses every kind of unusual material to create a frenetically insane atmosphere. On the first track, you can hear him knocking, throwing, breaking, crashing, hitting, coughing, whistling... the list of sounds found here go on infinitely. On the 4th track, you can hear he performing altogether with lots of field-sounds (cars driving by, the wind, ambulance's sirens, breathing sounds, etc). The music is so abstract that its meaning is almost intangible, besides being weirdly beautiful. When he uses standard instruments, like sax, harmonicas, guitars, he almost always produce a strange combination of non-melodic sounds. With a totally out-of-tune sax, you can barely hear any note, but only his mouth blowing the wind through the metal. The guitars are thrown in and out to produce the most shrieking noise possible, and a casual harmonica can be found, gently chanting some sparse notes. Overall, this music is sparse, with only some noisy moments, and totally confusing. It reminds me well of Keiji Haino's Global Ancient Atmosphere, Keith Rowe's and Roscoe Mitchell's experimentations, which is a good thing. A great album for those willing to explore the skirts of the musical dimension.

Catalog: PSFD-147 (P.S.F. Records)
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Boredoms - Super æ (1998)

| Experimental Rock | Psychedelic Rock | Space Rock |
| Progressive Rock | Krautrock | Noise Rock |

Surfacing again with an American release after a couple years of absence, the Boredoms showed themselves to still be truly a unique proposition with Super Ae. Taking some more of the prog/Kraut influences that crept into earlier efforts while still firing up the amps all around, Eye and his cohorts (forming a core quintet this time around) once again become the most out-there band in the world. "Super You" is a simply fantastic way to start, with initial whizzing stereo-to-stereo sounds leading into a wonderful collection of slow, ponderous death rock riffs that sound like all the Black Sabbath wannabes of the world gathered to create one massive opening fanfare via guitars. Logically the Boredoms spike the punch by interrupting things with sped-up tape sounds and pitch changes, making the proceedings all the more fun. From there, Super Ae continues along to something close to a concept album; each track feels like a perfect lead in to the rest, while the whole sense is of one long, mantra-like piece, faster or slower as the band feels like it. The big change is that the volume is not so much used to stun as it is to maintain a general atmosphere while the rhythm section cranks along in semi-motorik style, a bit like Can with some even freer spirits at play. Not everything is total destruction in the Boredoms scheme of things, admittedly -- "Super Coming", maybe the best in the whole album, has some hilarious cartoony vocals from all participants, a extremely catchy psych-melody and a incredible usage of synths and drumming. "Super Are" begins with a serene keyboard performance and chanting background vocals before turning into a psych/acid folk drum/singing jam session á la Amon Düül or fellow countrymen Ghost. Needless to say, though, the amps and monster sludge kick in soon enough, and quite well at that! "Super Good," the album closer, also has a nicely calm way about it.

Catalog: BMR-019 (Birdman Records)
Album Overview on Allmusic
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Knead - Knead (2002)

| Avant-Garde | Experimental Rock | Noise Rock |
| Free-Prog |

Keiji Haino meets The Ruins. Superficially, Knead sounds like a faster, hyper, prog-like Fushitsusha. But, of course, the spare, skeletal rhythm section of Fushitsusha is very unique and important to that band and no guitar-based creation on Earth can match their supreme density and abstract beauty. But, Knead doesn’t need to. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) This new trio happily launches Haino into territory that he has never really operated in before. We’re talking complex mathematics here, folks, and it’s well-known The Ruins practice it in spades. Crazed precision drumming and bass playing that meticulously teases each and every fret offer plenty of melding support for Haino’s crunchy feedback explosions and searing peak wail. There’s some quiet, spacey moments here and there and the “no overdubs” man even throws in some real-time vocal loops and other special effects. It’s nothing less than an entire CD filled with ultra intensity—so much music, it’ll leave even the most hardened fan tuckered. Pretty dang impressive.

Catalog: PSFD-128 (P.S.F. Records)
Album overview on ArcaneCandy
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Futons - A Good Friend (2010)

| Post-Rock | Indie Rock | Dream Pop |

This is the second musical output by Futons, and while the Smoker EP was a folkish/ambient album, in A Good Friend he drops the acoustic guitar and gives a leap forward. Impressively structuring songs with real-time loops (he uses no overdubs in the whole album), this 30min LP displays his works on piano, on indie rock-ish songs with electric guitar and electronic beats, and even on post-rock-influenced guitar trips. The album sounds immature sometimes, but that's exactly why it's so awesome - the songs really have a warm-cold feeling and a dreaming atmosphere, and the lack of fancy musical pretentiousness and the real-time-recording makes this album feels like an living creation, instead of a "sculptured-in-marble" maturely boring cd.

The album opens with Phlogiston Theory, maybe the most impressive track in the whole. A dreaming-ish non-stop piano runs and dances around a wonderfully catchy and beautiful melody. The outlet. This is where my mood, this table, my biles sink and that I would end. (hell, gotta love this title) kicks in with some dissonant and reverbful guitar sounds, and shows a skilled using of real-time loops while grows into a post-rock-ish blending of rhythms and riffs. Get It Together follows the same post-rock-ish vein, but featuring a more static structure and lots of guitar-loops that follows each other interlaced by the loud electronic-beat dancing. A Good Friend starts with a muted guitar riff and jumps into another melodic and non-stoppable song (like a Phlogiston Theory, but on guitar instead of piano), and Burrito Wizard sounds like a warm folkish song played on a high-pitched electric guitar. The album then closes with My Machine, a reinterpretation of a Boris song, featuring a reverberant and droning guitar.

Catalog: VB-18 (Velvet Blue Records)
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The Birthday Party - Mutiny/The Bad Seed (1989)

| Gothic Rock | Post-Punk | Noise Rock | Deathrock |

Collecting the two EPs onto one disc, this release also includes two rough mixes from the Mutiny sessions as a bonus. "The Six Strings That Drew Blood," also later recorded by Cave's Bad Seeds, is a quick brawler like many a past Party classic, Cave hitting a strangled falsetto at points as the group rips along. "Pleasure Avalanche" works on the slow grind trip; Cave husks his vocals over a nicely creepy arrangement from the rest, calling for the titular situation in question with increasing desperation.

Mostly featuring songs written by Cave and Harvey together, The Bad Seed forecasts the imminent future of Cave as a solo artist and Harvey as his right-hand man in more than just title. Now down to a four-piece following the departure of Calvert, the Party weren't any less confrontational than before; the opening sounds one hears is Cave yelling, "Hands up, who wants to die?!" Sound overall is a touch crisper than on other studio tracks, with Cave even more front and center than before. "Sonny's Burning" is a quick, brisk thrash, Cave's voice cracking more than once as the music builds to a series of climaxes throughout. "Wildworld" takes a bluesy tearjerker turn, Howard's death-rattle guitar perfectly suiting the song and setting the atmosphere. "Fears of Gun" builds up a tense energy over a favored lyrical subject for Cave (crime, insanity, and romance), with Pew and Harvey's tight rhythm matched by Howard's scratchy feedback. "Deep in the Woods" ends in all on a perfectly outrageous note, with Cave at his most sepulchral conjuring up a rural scene of devastation. The delivery and lyrics redefine the phrase "over the top,'" but the slow pound of the drums and Howard's downbeat, echoed plucking somehow makes everything work in spite of itself.

The final Party studio release, Mutiny, has the band thrashing to its conclusion. Given that the various projects that rose in its wake -- Cave's solo career, Harvey and Howard's work with Crime and the City Solution, Howard's own solo efforts -- all sound like logical extensions of the Party's sound; artistic dissatisfaction can't explain what brought the Party to an end. Whatever went down, though, the group bowed out with artistic extremism intact, if not always exploding all over the place as in years past. "Jennifers Veil" sounds like a slightly lighter -- but only just -- cousin to Bad Seed's "Deep in the Woods," Cave singing more than intoning, calling to mind the burned romantic of his later years more than once. "Say a Spell" runs at about the same pace but with more feedback to burn, a good torchy blues with a fine howl or two to recommend it. "Swampland" turns up the energy level all around, a crunchy romp through the low and mean places, sonically and lyrically, the Party made their own. "Mutiny in Heaven" closes it all off with a final, worthy blast of fire. Blixa Bargeld guests from Einsturzende Neubaten, foreshadowing his role as key guitarist for Cave's Bad Seeds, with sudden edits and a roaring central refrain from Cave, when not otherwise detailing a world turned upside down with all the fire of a travelling evangelist.

Catalog: CAD 301 CD (4AD)
Album Overview on Allmusic
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Gaseneta ( ガセネタ ) - Sooner or Later (1991)

| Noise Rock | Punk Rock | Garage Rock |

More-than-legendary, peerless garage punk band from the late 70's who can rival Les Rallizes Denudes in terms of having the most influence on the current Japanese underground. Along with Les Rallizes Denudes Gaseneta were one of the first Japanese groups to establish their own unique sound that took a huge step away from just emulating Western acts. Their frightening speed, flesh-melting, acid edge and total chaos were the original blueprint for High Rise (who clearly show their indebtedness by playing with Gaseneta's members on a La Musica cassette) and a handful of others. Hamano Jun (guitar), Yamazaki Harumi (vocals), Osato Toshiharo (bass) - all were involved in many other minor-related underground projects at the time that helped shape a huge part of the current Japanese psych scene. This 1978 recording is Gaseneta's only widely available release that captures the group in full-blistering flow. Highly Recommended.

Catalog: PSFD-17 (P.S.F. Records)
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

High Rise - Psychedelic Speed Freaks (1984)

| Psychedelic Rock | Noise Rock | Garage Rock |

This is the first release ever by either High Rise and the P.S.F. label, and it's pretty much exactly what you expect. High Rise's is pretty known for its mindblowing noisy, fast and loud rock - and all these piece are here. But there's something more in the puzzle this time; there's the Lo-Fi recording. The sound is melting everywhere, and the bloody-bass lines are simply burying all the other instruments. The furious, shrieking, motorcycle-ish guitar is notably trying to escape from the dense blackhole that Asahito's bass has become, and from which both the vocals and drums have been caught. The drumming is so buried under the bass that every cymbal crash sounds like it's been distorted by a fuzz pedal. The vocals are very likely to the other records - lots of reverb and all that well known Asahito's singing -, but the lo-fi really gives it a "something more" touch - as on the whole album. I really find this one of the most interesting albums not only from HR's discography, but from the whole underground japanese scene. The highlight is doubtlessly "Take a Trip", one of those 10min long psych-guitar trips that High Rise does so well, and, of course, "Psychedelic Speed Freaks".

Catalog: PSF-1 (P.S.F. Records)
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

John Zorn - Femina (2009)

| Avant-Garde | Experimental | Electronic | Jazz |
| Chamber Music | Folk | Ambient |

Femina is the triumphant return to Zorn's experimentations at mixing different ideas into one ideal. Made as a tribute album to all the women, Femina features Zorn followed by a whole band of experimental musicians - female musicians. Conceptually, the album really captures the delicate aura, the sensual moves and the gently colourful sounds - which resembles the eyes, the voice, the curves and the touches of a woman. Structurally, the album is a huge mess of genres. Blending all influences it can found without any barriers, Femina features pieces of Avant-Garde Jazz, Ambient and folkish music, Electro-acoustic experimentations, noise, and of course, chamber/classical music. Sonically, the album is a big win. Moving through all its different genres as softly as a ballet dancer, Femina's breathtaking precision and peculiar logic makes this album a unique piece of experimental music. Delicate pianos and harps, aural violins and cellos, intriguing noise collages and electronic experimentations, Femina is a magistral record at Zorn's extensive discography.

Catalog: TZ 7377 (Tzadik)
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Monks of the Balhill - Lost and Hide Side (2009)

| Psychedelic Drone | Free-Jazz | Experimental |
| Ambient |

An abstract album of psychedelic ambient music. Filled with a pretty cool jazzy saxophone, some electronic noises and a heavy and slow synth, Monks of the Balhill provides one of the most trippy music I've ever heard. The atmosphere is pretty slow and somewhat pretty colourful - like watching a supersaturated surreal movie in slowmotion -, and each song gives me the feeling of getting my laid-down body slowly lifted by the winds. The album might feel boring though, depending on your state of spirit. The first time I listened to it, I really didn't think it was great thing. But on the second time, laid on my bed with my headphones at max and a fucking headache, Lost and Hide Side sounded like heaven's music. My favourite tracks are Wings of Rain, Monomonks (maybe the best on the album) and Ocapulca.

Catalog: housecraft no. 76 (Housecraft Records)
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Birthday Party - Live 81-82 (1999)

| Gothic Rock | Post-Punk | Noise Rock | Deathrock |

Though various live releases had emerged over the course of the band's existence, no full-length capturing of the Party's particular bacchanalia approved by the group had officially emerged until this release. Stitching together tracks from a London date in 1981 and a German show in 1982 (plus a ringer cut from Athens, Greece -- a version of the Stooges' "Funhouse" with Jim Thirwell aka Foetus on sax)), Live threatens at all points to leap from the speakers and throttle innocent bystanders. Clear sound on the first ten songs, all from the London date, makes resistance even harder. Given the sometimes (though intentionally) unclear or unexpected mixing of Party songs in studio, hearing everything via in-your-face stun methods brings out the abilities of the band all the more, especially Pew and his vicious bass work. Songs like "The Dim Locator" and "King Ink" cut all the more closer to the bone as a result. "Nick the Stripper," amazingly, is even more viciously sleazy than the original, which is saying something and a half; Cave sounds like he's summoning his voice from his shoes on up. The German date's sound is only slightly less thorough than the London's, and the performances no less wired. "Big-Jesus-Trash-Can" thrashes around like there's no tomorrow, Pew's bass again shooting through the mix, while "The Friend Catcher" seethes with a creepy, frigid energy. Harvey takes over on drums for the last two German tracks and the "Funhouse" cover, but even down to four people the band still generates more noise and activity than most other acts could hope to achieve. Definite bonus points have to go to Cave for his occasional, softly spoken between-song asides -- "Thank you, I love your haircuts as well." Awesome to the bones.

Catalog: CAD 9005 CD (4AD)
Album Overview on Allmusic
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The Birthday Party - Prayers on Fire (1981)

| Gothic Rock | Post-Punk | Noise Rock | Deathrock |

The Birthday Party were one of the darkest and most challenging post-punk groups to emerge in the early '80s, creating bleak and noisy soundscapes that provided the perfect setting for vocalist Nick Cave's difficult, disturbing stories of religion, violence, and perversity. Under the direction of Cave and guitarist Rowland S. Howard, the band tore through reams of blues and rockabilly licks, spitting out hellacious feedback and noise at an unrelenting pace. As the Birthday Party's career progressed, Cave's vision got darker and the band's songs alternated between dirges to blistering sonic assaults.

It should come as no surprise that there is an album in Nick Cave's oeuvre called Prayers on Fire; a fascination with the dark, (self-)destructive side of religion is more than evident in his later work with the Bad Seeds. While there might not be any of the explicit Biblical imagery on Prayers on Fire that Cave would later ejaculate, the title of the album is apt, and its aptness is revealed almost immediately. Over the tribal thud of floor toms, shards of trebly guitar, the throb of an organ, and even a creepily out-of-place trumpet come the possessed, chant-like vocals -- not an incantation to any god, but to "Zoo-Music Girl." It's the religion of depraved sexuality, bestial urges, and sadomasochism. "We spend our lives in a box full of dirt/I murder her dress till it hurts/I murder her dress and she loves it," howls Cave, echoing Leonard Cohen and finally concluding with the berserk plea, "Oh! God! Please let me die beneath her fists." Meanwhile, Cave sounds like he's actually being assaulted by the music, emitting horrific gasps and primitive grunts. And this is only the first track. On the next two tracks, language itself is violated and found inadequate. Words collapse upon themselves in "Cry," with Cave tossing out self-annihilating binaries like "space/no space," "fish/no fish," "clothes/no clothes," and "flesh/no flesh." On "Capers," penned by Genevieve McGuckin, semantics are made into sausage -- words are chewed up and regurgitated as warped neologisms: "gloomloom," "clocklock," "paperparrent," "diehood." The lyrics for "Figure of Fun" aren't even printed in the booklet; instead, merely "obsessive, deadpan, moribund, seasick, etc." And perhaps that best sums up Prayers on Fire's graveyard poetry. The rest of the album is a subterranean labyrinth full of "sand and soot and dust and dirt," peopled by bizarre characters like Nick the Stripper and King Ink, and replete with images of murder, decay, blood, and Kafka-esque insects. Then, of course, there's Cave himself, the literate ghoul with an impressive vocal range who just stepped out of a B horror flick, trying to parry the intensity of the music like an Iggy Pop wasted on goth pills. But be careful not to overlook his subtle sense of humor and his awareness of the camp -- there are also chickens to be counted, nuns inside his head, and Fats Domino on the radio. With Mick Harvey being the only future Bad Seed on hand (Anita Lane also contributed one set of lyrics), the music here foreshadows Cave's later work without quite resembling it (with the exception of his first album). The Birthday Party are closer to Joy Division (only more theatrical), the Pop Group (only spookier), or Pere Ubu (only more percussive). Though present on most of the tracks, the moody piano that would dominate much of Cave's solo work is never really prominent here. Instead it's the squiggles of Rowland Howard's guitar dodging the blows of the furious rhythm section that distinguishes the Birthday Party. Oppressive and unrelenting, Prayers on Fire is highly recommended for those aspiring to advanced states of dementia.

Catalog: CAD 104 (4AD)
Album Overview on Allmusic
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Swans - White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (1991)

| Post-Punk | Experimental Rock | Industrial |
| Neofolk | Noise Rock |

The opening track "Better Than You" almost says it all: Starting with the wail of an infant, then suddenly crashing into surging music that mixes quick, energetic drums with bells and other instruments, the song turns into a dramatic acoustic guitar/percussion piece with Gira's brooding voice and Jarboe's haunting backing; after some re-developments of the themes, it ends with a beautiful restatement of the sung section with additional guitar and bell sounds. At once incredibly destructive and astoundingly life-affirming -- and worth the entire Burning World album several times over -- "Better Than You" demonstrates that Swans had emerged from their major-label fiasco even more powerful and artistic than before, aiming for an awesome, all-encompassing majesty in their music that the admittedly hypnotic earlier versions of the band, in their brute forcefulness, simply could not have achieved. Interestingly, a number of players from Burning World and other Bill Laswell associates participate on White Light, but here Gira as sole producer marshals everyone's collective efforts to heights that Laswell either was unwilling or unable to do. Also notably, Westberg is all but absent on guitar, with new arrival Clinton Steele taking the fore as the major instrumentalist after Gira and Jarboe themselves. Picking out all the highlights from such a stunning disc is practically impossible, but three of the flat-out classic marvels here are: "You Know Nothing," with its simply lovely introduction and Gira's commanding singing; "Song for Dead Time," a gentle Jarboe-sung number filled out by a simple but effective string-synth arrangement; and "Failure," carried by a buried guitar strum, Gira's Sisyphean lyric, and brief, lush choruses. Simply put, this is out and out brilliant as the clear starting point for the second half of Swans' unique career.

Catalog: YGCD 3 (Young God Records)
Album Overview on Allmusic
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Swans - Children of God (1987)

| Post-Punk | Experimental Rock | Industrial |
| Dark Ambient | Noise Rock |

Kicking off with "New Mind" -- which, while having the same general pace of most earlier Swans songs, also sounds distinctly different with its clearer, inventive arrangement, call-and-response vocals, and Gira's declamatory but not screamed lead vocal -- Children of God finds the band making their own particular great leap forward. The simmering changes that were apparent in the albums just before this one's release fully come to the fore, as Swans take the courage to explore both their huge-sounding, bombastic side and gentle, if often still disturbing, delicacy (due credit especially to Westberg, Kizys, and Parsons, possibly the best musical lineup Swans ever had until the final years). The results are fascinating, ranging from the spare piano melting into ambient feedback of "In My Garden" and the twisted gospel blues of "Our Love Lies" to the acoustic guitar and organ on "You're Not Real, Girl" and the raging pounder "Beautiful Child." Equally importantly, if not more so, Jarboe now assumes a full role with Gira as co-leader of the band; while all lyrics are still Gira's, the two share lead vocal duties (though aside from the title track, no duets) throughout the album. The weary, evocative croon which Gira developed into his major vocal trademark here emerges to full effect (though he can still roar with the best of them at points) while Jarboe's cool, rich tones are simply astounding, as evidenced on an even more compelling version of "Blackmail," originally from the A Screw EP. Though Children is dedicated without any apparent irony to Jesus Christ, Gira's words remain as irreverent, challenging, and obsessed with overarching issues of religion, power, sex, love, and control as before, but with an ever-increasing depth and beauty to match the lusher musical textures. With flute, oboe, and strings adding further texturing to the often quite lovely songs created by the band, Children remains perhaps the key album of Swans' career -- the clear signpost towards their ever-more ambitious albums in the future.

Catalog: CAR 01346-2 (Caroline Records)
Album overview on Allmusic
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Futons - Smoker EP (2009)

| Indie Folk | Ambient |

Futons is a one-man band from Australia. Playing a perfect fusion of Folk and Ambient music, his songs are deeply sentimental and nostalgic. The lo-fi production grants the music a warm atmosphere and the gentle sound of his guitar seems to float around the eardrums, softly cuddling the mind. I totally feel like the little man on the cover while I listen to it. Blackie Young stands out for its charming melody and The Depressive Teacup is the perfect song for a warm cup of milk during a cold rainy day. Smoker EP is THE album for anyone who feels just too tired of the world's loud and bright dizziness. Lay below a tree and let this hearty music close your eyes.

Catalog: VB-16 (Velvet Blue Records)
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Some Cool News about Velvet Blue Records

Ok, this post is not about some album. but it's pretty cool, you should totally take a read at it.
First, for the ones who don't know yet, Velvet Blue Records is the label I'm currently running with a friend. We're based in Brazil, and blablabla... cutting off the bullshit, I got some news to bring to you guys. But first, a picture says more than a thousand words. So:

Yeah, that's right. We're now making physical copies of our catalogue! You all shall be able to get your own copy, and know what's the best? They are totally Free. Yep, that's right, We're not into selling our music, it's fucking completely free. The production of each album costs about U$2,50 - a price that we, the label, can afford. So you can get your own copy for only U$0,00. BUT (I know, "but"'s sucks ): ), we can't afford the postage costs... So, if you want to get your own copy, You'll have to pay for the postage (but only for the postage, the albums itselves are totally costless. We, the label, are not - in any way - monetarily profiting. On the opposite, we're kind of losing money!). The postage prices are the following:
- Canada, USA, etc: U$16
- Germany, England, France, etc: U$17
- Japan, Norway, Sweden, etc: U$20
You can get up to 5 albums for that price above (which gets about U$3-4 per album!).
For the ones who live in Brazil, the postage price is the following:
- R$1,50 [U$0,80] (for 1 cd), R$2,30 [U$1,25] (for 2cds) and R$4,70 [U$2,60] (for up to 5 cds) - Plus R$1,80 [U$1,00] for the special package (the one used to send cds via mail).

All the albums are professionally printed, hand-made and each copy comes numbered.
All the versions shown here are "test version"s, printed at home and using common paper (but Despair, which is already the final version with Pro-printing.). The final version, professionally printed, looks way better :)

Well, that's it! I hope you liked the news! If anyone is interested or has any question, you can easily contact we at . We can even discuss a discount at the postage prices :) and remember, if you're an independent musician/band, the label can totally work with you! (specially if you make shit music, lol)
Thanks for your attention! I'm so excited with all this!
The whole catalog is available! (new link with photos!)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Swans - Soundtracks for the Blind (1996)

| Experimental Rock | Industrial | Post-Punk |
| Dark Ambient | Post-Rock | Neofolk | Noise Rock |

Choosing to extinguish the band name under which Gira and Jarboe had worked together for so long must not have been an easy step, but when they decided to end Swans with one last studio release as a prelude to a farewell tour, they did so with what turned out to be their biggest and best album ever. Interestingly, the double-disc, two-and-a-half-hour long Soundtracks makes no pretensions at being a uniform creation like The White Album or Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; Gira's own notes indicate the song sources as being from "hand-held cassette recordings to found sounds, to samples, to loops, to finished multitrack recordings," recorded with ten different musicians. Everything from raging electric music in extreme to the gentlest of acoustic strums can be found here, ultimately being a perfect encapsulation of Swans' sound -- as much as any greatest-hits anthology could ever have been. "The Helpless Child," the epic-length Gira-sung piece previewed on Die Tür ist Zu, amazingly gets an even more brilliant revision here, while another similarly lengthy track, "The Sound," at once roars and whispers over its length in a way that early Swans -- much less many other bands -- could never have done. Other tracks continue Swans' then-recent practice of mixing random taped conversations with exquisitely arranged performances: "I Was a Prisoner in Your Skull" is especially noteworthy as the clear forerunner of Godspeed you Black Emperor!'s entire musical approach. Jarboe's own tracks are all winners, from the fractured, tempo-shifting techno of "Volcano" to the howling live version of a solo album track from Sacrificial Cake, "Yum-Yab Killers." Ending on the unexpected yet appropriate "Surrogate Drone," Soundtracks lets Swans bow out from recording on the highest note possible.

Catalog: YGCD 10 (Young God Records)
Album Overview on Allmusic
Download (192kbps)

Swans - The Great Annihilator (1994)

| Experimental Rock | Industrial | Post-Punk |
| Dark Ambient | Post-Rock | Noise Rock |

Crawling out of the same noisy, arty New York underground that sired Sonic Youth and Lydia Lunch, Swans created a dark, abrasive, murky, slowed-down noise rock that served as a starting point for their ruminations about alienation, depression, depravity, and the disturbing side of human nature. Singers Michael Gira and Jarboe have been the group's only constants over the years; Gira has taken the group from its early confrontational shock tactics to a more varied, mature attack. The band first appeared on record in 1982 with a self-titled EP, and these early releases document their search for the musical vocabulary to express their ideas effectively. Female singer Jarboe joined the group for 1986's Holy Money and brought a gentler, more relaxed dimension to Swans' sound. The band entered its creative peak with 1987's Children of God and the follow-up, Feel Good Now, and secured a deal with MCA through a cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," which became an indie hit in the U.K. Their first MCA album, The Burning World, came the closest to mainstream rock of anything they had done up to that point, and 1991's White Light From the Mouth of Infinity continued that trend. Swans are highly regarded as one of the most influential bands from that time, anticipating the born of genres such as Post-Rock.

After a three-year break occasioned in part by wrangles with the Sky label, Swans returned in 1995 with a vengeance, as always pursuing their unique muse of dramatic, ever-more textured music. Gira and Jarboe work with a fantastic core band this time out, including returning veteran Westberg, who trades off guitar duties with Steele, at points playing together with him, a magnificent combination. Other returning musicians include Kizys and Parsons, while newer players like drummer Bill Rieflin from the Chicago Wax Trax! circle join as well. As is par for the course by now, Swans seem incapable of producing a bad album, Annihilator being crammed full of astonishing songs to prove it. Everything's a little more stripped-down here, possibly due to having a central band, but it's still all very lushly arranged and created, perfectly balancing force and restraint. Leadoff single "Celebrity Lifestyle" is one of the catchiest things the band has ever done, but it's still uniquely Swans -- a minimal, throbbing song matched with a sharp lyric on starlust and what it might mean. "I Am the Sun" pounds as hard as any early Swans track, but the use of careful space between blasts, Gira's heavily echoed, out-of-nowhere vocal (accentuated by equally vivid background vocals from Jarboe), and tempo shifts clearly demonstrates the constantly evolving nature of Swans music; the band is never content to simply repeat the past. Jarboe's own standout tracks include "Mother/Father," a brawling number showcasing both her and the band at their full-on best, and "My Buried Child," with her softly husked take on a terrifying Gira lyric, which is carried by a roiling rhythm. This is followed immediately by the sweeping, cinematic "Warm," where she contributes wordless vocals. Once again, Swans have created an epic, incredible work of art.

Catalog: YGCD 009 (Young God Records)
Album Overview at Allmusic
Download (192kbps)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Edgard Varèse - The Complete Works (1998)

| Avant-Garde | Musique Concrète | Experimental |
| Modern Classical | Chamber Music | Orchestral |

Despite his output of only slightly more than a dozen compositions, Edgard Varèse is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century. His concept of "organized sound" led to many experiments in form and texture. He was constantly on the lookout for new sound sources (working throughout his life with engineers, scientists and instrument builders), and was one of the first to extensively explore percussion, electronics, and taped sounds. He was, as Henry Miller called him, "The stratospheric Colossus of Sound."

Varèse spent his early childhood in Paris and Burgundy. His father wanted him to study math and engineering in preparation for a career in business. However, Varèse pursued music, studying at the Schola Cantorum with Albert Roussel and Vincent d'Indy and at the Paris Conservatoire with Charles Marie Widor. Varèse moved to Berlin in 1907, in part to meet Ferruccio Busoni; Varèse had been impressed with Busoni's Sketch for a New Aesthetic in Music (1907), which anticipated many of Varèse's own later explorations. Unfortunately, of the music Varèse wrote during that time, only one song survives. The other manuscripts were destroyed in a warehouse fire.

Unable to find regular work, Varèse moved to the United States in 1915, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1926. The first work he completed after the emigration is in fact titled Amériques, an extroverted celebration of his new life. In addition to composing, Varèse promoted new music through the establishment of his New Symphony Orchestra in 1919, the International Composers' Guild in 1921, and the Pan American Society in 1926. He continued to have difficulty making money, though, and spent some time as a piano salesman; he also made a brief appearance in a 1918 John Barrymore film.

Varèse maintained his connection with Europe, and had an extended stay in Paris between 1928 and 1933 during which he continued his sonic explorations and heard many of his works performed. In 1931 he completed Ionisation, a notorious piece for thirteen percussionists playing about forty different instruments. Back in the U.S., he attempted to get Bell Telephone and others interested in creating a center for electric instrument research. The failure of that project led to an extended depression. Over the next ten-plus years, Varèse completed only one work, Density 21.5 for solo flute, spending the time teaching (at Santa Fe's Arsuna School of Fine Arts, Columbia University, and Darmstadt) and thinking about what new direction his music should take.

The anonymous gift of an Ampex tape recorder in 1953 was the motivation Varèse needed. He set to work on the tape portion of his work Déserts, which was premiered in Paris in 1954 in a concert which was broadcast live in stereo, the first stereo music broadcast ever in France. He was involved with several film projects, writing music for documentaries on Léger and Joan Miró. He also wrote the Poème électronique for tape for Le Corbusier's pavilion at the 1958 Brussels exhibition, where Varèse's music was heard through more than 400 loudspeakers, accompanied by Le Corbusier's visuals.

Varèse and his music received much attention in the 1960s. His works were widely performed, recorded and published, and he received honors from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the Royal Swedish Academy. He also won the first Koussevitzky International Recording Award in 1963. But Varèse wrote little music during these last years. His final work, the unfinished Nocturnal (with text by Anaïs Nin), was performed at a tribute concert in 1961 and completed years later by composer Chou Wen-chung.

Catalog: 460 208-2 (Decca)
Biography at Allmusic
Download (192kbps)

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Sisters of Mercy - Floodland (1987) [2006 - remastered]

| Post-Punk | Gothic Rock |

One of England's leading "goth" bands of the 1980s, the Sisters of Mercy play a slow, gloomy, ponderous hybrid of metal and psychedelia, often incorporating dance beats; the one constant in the band's career has been deep-voiced singer Andrew Eldritch. While the goth scene in England was picking up commercial steam in the mid-'80s, the Sisters of Mercy may have seemed quiet, but they roared back with 1987's Floodland. Opening with the driving two-part hymn "Dominion/Mother Russia," Sisters leader Andrew Eldritch (along with bassist Patricia Morrison) creates a black soundscape that is majestic and vast. While the earlier Sisters releases were noisy, sometimes harsh affairs, Floodland is filled with lush production (thanks to Meat Loaf writer/producer Jim Steinman and the New York Choral Society) and lyric imagery that is both scary and glorious. The slower tracks, like "Flood" and "1959," are some of the best ethereal sounds goth has to offer, and the downright regal "This Corrosion" and "Lucretia My Reflection" are one of the best songs of the genre. A definite milestone.

Catalog: 5101-17580-2 (Rhino)
Album Overview on Allmusic
Download (320kbps)

John Zorn - Locus Solus (1983)

| Avant-Garde | Avant-Jazz | Experimental Rock |

This captures over an hour's worth of John Zorn's search for the improvised song form. Several lineups from 1983 are documented here. The first eight tracks feature Zorn with Christian Marclay spinning and Peter Blegvad speaking. The text is unremarkable (for example, Honey-Cab's "...tell her everything I know/ In ink as black as carbon/ On paper white as snow"), but Blegvad's sonorous delivery works well with the chaos that the other two musicians spit and spin out, combining into tides of noisy mischief. Tracks 9-15 find Zorn with Arto Lindsay providing lyrics and guitar, and Anton Fier on drums. Zorn squawks and spurts an array of sounds, from birdcall to babydoll. M.E. Miller replaces Fier on drums for the next set, which features a driving rock beat. This is followed by eight pieces from Zorn, Wayne Horvitz, and Ikue Mori. The final fifth of the album captures the walloping interplay of Zorn, Miller, and turntablist Whiz Kid. Overall, an album of short, angular, experimental energy tracks.
All tracks are live, real-time improvisations except side D (tracks 31-38) which was produced through overdubbing.

Catalog: RIFT 7 (Rift) / TZ 7303 (Tzadik)
Album Overview on Allmusic
Download (256kbps)