For the most part the tracks are spellbinding mixes of 60s/70s spiritualism, 70s prog (specifically the enticing organ/synth bits on Gong or Hillage solo LPs before the guitar battles and zany lyrics kick in) and the ambient minimalism let loose by Riley or Eno.
Ffolkes! Roll out another chocolate log and stick it on the fire! Is my egg nog bath ready? Good. I’ll be up as soon as I’ve written these reviews…
Chocolat Billy – Jacques Et Ses Diverses Compagnes
(Les Potagers Natures)
I saw Chocolat Billy back in February at The Ex festival. They were bonkers then, running around gurning, changing instruments, looking quizzical and pretending (or wishing) it was 1968. More importantly, they were supremely talented. I’ve been playing this LP on and off since then. It’s really great and a massive trip, and difficult to explain. I suppose I could have a stab and say it’s like the whimsical, post/wannabe-Syd bits of Relics, or Saucerful of Secrets, or maybe a Snakefinger record; especially Novo, or La Hache, or La Forêt; certainly not something from the here and now. Soleil is a bit Van Der Graaf too. One thing you’ll feel when listening in is that there is NO buzz around this LP; nothing to latch onto. There are no visual clues, only sparse texts in French, no clue to the personality of the band. And their live gigs don’t really link into this record either. So yeah, the best I can do is say, Residents in patches, or early Floyd, or VDG. The element of being out of time is something that counts against it really. It must be one of the most played LPs at Incendiary all year, and we’ve not really thought it necessary to review, just because of its Zeit-style weightlessness; and the long sotto passages, which lend the record a very otherworldly air. It IS really good though. In a trippy, existential way.
Ariel Kalma - An Evolutionary Music (Original Recordings 1972-1979)
A stone classic, this, and a record that’s full of the most incredibly tripped out music you can imagine. And one that highbrows will pore and paw over for hours. In ten years’ time this record’s inner genius will have led Kalma to a starring role on the front of GQ, or some such glossy; and they’ll have found long lost pictures of him eating a biscuit in Cannes in 1971, and it’ll justify a 20 page spread and they’ll wheel out some highbrow/middlebrow writers from Chiswick or somewhere noncey like that, and they’ll go ON and ON about him being a genius and they always knew… etc. Ad nauseum. Trust me. Still, on the evidence of this record that’s fair enough as it’s full of brilliant electronic ragas. However BAD titles like Ecstasy Musical Mind Yoga or Chase Me Now read, they sure sound out there; the latter coming over like a classic, long lost Moebius cut. For the most part the tracks are spellbinding mixes of 60s/70s spiritualism, 70s prog (specifically the enticing organ/synth bits on Gong or Hillage solo LPs before the guitar battles and zany lyrics kick in) and the ambient minimalism let loose by Riley or Eno. Be warned, if you dig that kind of thing, An Evolutionary Music is a dangerously addictive listen. Some bits even veer towards a bedroom take on that Leary/Cosmic Jokers psi-fi/sci-fi tri (Sunset Organ or Tous Les Jours). Others simply float. By the time of (my fave) Head Noises, or Love and Dream and Yogini Breath you will need sandbags to tie you down.
Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche – Zubberdust!
A GREAT record this, but then it’s on Constellation, and on the whole they can do no wrong. There seems to be a bit of a trance/prog thing going on at present, where lots of Heads are banging out 15 minute tracks that don’t back off. This LP full of them; a very proggy and very groovy listen; with a wee bit of that Swiss Kraut/Wegmueller/Ash Ra headspace thrown in for good measure. It’s a heady listen at times, starting at a fair lick with Face à L’instant (which has four movements, get that!) which is an upgraded, C21st take on Hapshash’s devotionals. It’s also bordering on the daft (the obligatory soundscape Déjà, Hier...doesn’t do much for the record if I’m honest) or naff, which, again can be great in patches; though some bits are a bit too much. Super Pastische Fantastique sounds exactly like a.. yes, fantastic super pastiche of a mini prog opera in four parts; (and with intermittent vocal parts in part one that sound like Archie Bronson). Still; the bit known as New Sun (I think that’s the last bit) is rightly celebratory, and a satisfying conclusion to the whole piece. And once the annoying chatter has gone, À Partir de Dorénavant reveals itself to be a fine ending. Taken as a whole it’s a very, very rewarding listen; and you know the band doesn’t back off, or fake it at any point.
Aby Ngana Diop - Thiossanou Ngewel
(Awesome Tapes from Africa) http://www.konkurent.nl
A posthumous release celebrating; ‘Senegalese griot Aby Ngana Diop, who was famous for her taasu, a form of oral poetry spoken to the rhythmic accompaniment of sabar and tama drums.’ Okay that’s the lesson over with today. What I will say is that the opening track Dieuleuil- Dieuleuil is up there with Litter’s Action Woman for me in its utter directness and lack of any fucking about. According to the sleeve notes are the lyrics are ‘Take it take it, take it, if you want it – take it. You might make mistakes in life, but I’m not going to fight with you; if you want it, take it’. WOW. After that we have horse noises and a track about cool kings and princes from the past; set over a battery of drums and the odd gloopy noise and sparsely picked out melody. And this is pretty much what you get from there on in. A full on verbal battering delivered by Aby Ngana Diop; sometimes over the maddest, most overpowering drum patterns.
Some bits can sound like fishwife-style yelling; and after a while I can see how being harangued at such volume can be wearing. Especially when you listen into the backing chorus, which sounds like they’ve been subjected to the maddest overload of vocal double-tracking ever. The energy and directness of this record is simply too much at times. It’s story telling at full volume; a sort of preaching we’d normally shun, or wince at. You need a few times to get used to the utter battering you get. Then it’s cool, you can relax and take it in. But, yeah; it’s a hell of a listen; and that opener is sublime.
Yob- Clearing the Path to Ascend
(Neurot Recordings) http://www.konkurent.nl
Ah I love this. Again, it’s something I’ve had on the turntable a lot; but never bothered thinking about reviewing. I could start my review proper by saying it’s a GREAT drinking record; somehow those sludgy chords on Nothing To Win or Unmask the Spectre really go well with drinking stout and eating salt n vinegar crisps. It should come as no surprise (seeing it’s Yob) that Clearing the Path to Ascend is long, massive in reach, and utterly self-assured. And whilst it may sound daft to say this about a record that is over an hour long and containing four tracks, I think Yob have really hit their stride with this LP. It’s got the lot it really has, and somehow feels like a summation of all their other work (well the stuff I’ve heard anyway). And unlike many records in this genre, like there’s an underlying hopefulness to the growling and grumbling. There are some absolutely blinding, enlightening, arms outstretched to the morning sun-style mixes of sludge and prog here. A prog, moreover, that’s been dragged by its patchouli-stained lapels through a farmer’s field; and hitched to the back of a combine. And when that Hammond fires up on last track, the 18 minute Marrow everything comes together; a sort of huge, Kiefer-like opera that all comes good in the ringing chords, the sweep of the Hammond and the baleful vox.
Dean Blunt – Black Metal
(Rough Trade) http://www.konkurent.nl
Dean Blunt wants to be seen as a nutter or weirdo. His live shows (dry ice, loads of ‘jazz’ interludes, Gnomic bullshit uttered from a pitch black stage) all point to a bloke trying to test the patience of his audience. Fair enough, if you go for the spectacle, it’s down to the artist to deliver it. But on the basis of this beautiful record (and his last 2 LPs to be fair) he can be what he wants. Here, the black packaging and dafty title all add to the fun.
This record gambols along in its own time, using a mix of mid-80s indie pop (Lush, 50 Cent or Blow) that sounds like Felt or some weirdo release from Cherry Red; and long, or drawn out experiments like Grade, Forever and X (the latter two being 13 and 8 minutes of low key, noodling introspection respectively). Before I leave the 80’s theme, I note he’s nabbed a riff from The Pastels on 100, too. My faves are Molly & Aquafina which is a superb love song, not far away from Copey’s Me Singing (and one that seems to get Dean Blunt out of his laconic bubble) and Mersh and Punk; which are funny, dumb dub work outs. It’s actually quite brilliant, all told.
Dream Police – Hypnotized
(Sacred Bones) http://www.konkurent.nl
A FINE release – mixing up some dirty boots rock and roll (Hypnotized or My Mama’s Dead) some dusty bloos, (the kicking John) and some windswept, high quality Goth/motorik work outs (Pouring Rain and Let It Be). It’s a funny record as it’s neither one thing nor the other, but a good listen nonetheless; and something you don’t need to fret about too much. And most importantly it rocks out. As ever with Sacred Bones they seem to release records that, whilst sounding like a lot of things you already own (and have heard a billion times before), refocus your energies and give you a kick. Gah, pass the sick bag, why don’t you. No; I mean it. And if you can’t mope round your bedroom with a hairbrush in your hand and your mum’s mascara stinging your eyes whilst fantasizing along to Pouring Rain or Hypnotized you need to go and do something like all the other bean counters, and leave us old rockers alone, dwindling but standing proud like the Silverback gorilla males; cocks out, sniffing the air in our reservation, waiting for the world’s ending.
Naomi Punk – Television Man
(Captured Tracks) http://www.konkurent.nl
Sometimes listening to a band thrashing out is great - especially when a band makes a record as spiky and as alive as this one. Naomi Punk’s LP is a really cracking release. It’s just a shame there are so many people plodding down this kind of sonic path at the moment with their ‘I don’t care that mommy’s dead’ poses and ironically loud guitars and all their slacker Gen X moves. Paper tigers all. This record’s built of tough stuff though; and has a quiet determination about it that just sounds like the band mean what they say. No secret dreams of working in Glaxo Smith Klein for this lot. What’s so great about it? Well, there are a number of riffs and hooks and throwaway licks you could cut yourself on; (check Firehose Face and the all too short Whirlpool of Anguish). And a couple of brilliant tracks like Television Man and Eleven Inches which have this restless urgency about them despite them being mid-paced stomps. There’s just something you can’t describe outside of saying they sound desperate to get what they have inside them out; which does sound wank on paper, but is actually really great to listen to. OK, I could add that there’s this early Pere Ubu ‘Neanderthal punk’ element to them with stuff like Rodeo Trashpit. That better? Will they make another record? Will they try to build a career? I wonder. For now they should be proud of this.
Wunder Wunder – Everything Infinite
(Dovecote Records) http://www.konkurent.nl
A jolly pop outing and no mistake. As jolly as a Christmas ad full of snow with young couples running home, carrying loads of pressies, shaking off the cold when they run into their well-appointed city centre flat and, a shake of a lamb’s tail later, healthy brew in hand, smiling, pert of arse and sculpted of dimple, they bounce down on the sofa and turn the goggle box on, and lo!, they’re watching some massive modern TV, with a programme hosted by David Attenborough with radical camera angles that bring new insight into the mating habits of Cheetahs.
By the way, before I begin the review, have you noticed on ads where they have families or young couples communing on the sofa, the way they all bounce down onto said sofa? They bounce down, glorying in their suppleness, their indestructability, their ‘of this very moment / fuck the oil reserves’ confidence in the Bacchanalian bounty of first world living. If I bounced like that on our sofa, I’d do my back in. But then, I’m not pop. And this record indisputably IS POP; the opening twangs on Everything Infinite coming on like some cross between the Monkees and the Fabs’ Run For Your Life before our memories are wiped and we’re in some mad tooth whitener ad with music. Music that’s fun pop with a 60s twist, maaaan (see also Trouble In Utopia also M’Lud). And pop that’s a tad hysterical. But it’s POP, you hear me? POP. Fun melodies, replete with that high tenor, slightly nasal vocal sound; the sort of voice that them kids with good hair and all their teeth have. It’s nice. Squared.
And a niceness that knows nothing else. ‘Hail the madmen’, sing Wunder Wunder on one of their songs, resplendent, glowing, bristling in the full confidence they’ll never have to meet a mad man. It’s that kind of nice, this LP. I should be fair and say the quiet, or long ones are the best here; like Sure Stuck, Midnight Hours and Wonderful Way. They’re good tracks, they really are, as they’re allowed to breathe and do their thing. Even if they are softer and smoother and shinier than a coat of Dulux apple white. I can just about believe them when they do that.
Ritual Howls – Turkish Leather
Oofph and into the darkness we go with Ritual Howls and their LP, Turkish Leather. Turkish leather; no me neither, I have no idea what Turkish leather is, or hints at. And I’m not looking it up on the net. Anyway we get a creepy cover and a big old fashioned Goth sound, kittens. Goth. Yeah, that’s what this record is. Maybe that’s what Turkish leather is, a sort of hidden Goth code word.
This record certainly succeeds in making you feel nice and maudlin and Goth. That thing that you’re not supposed to like but secretly do in small doses, like crème de Menthe. We get different kinds of Goth too; lots of spiral, spindly riffs built round a buzzing bass line; the sound which the Sisters had off pat (Zemmoa, My Friends), vocals that speak of some chasm where doom dwells, and that louche, ‘conquistador’ feel in the slowies that Nick Cave or Mick Harvey brought to the party back in the day (The Taste of You). And – of course – that big drum machine –led sound. It may not be world shattering stuff (when was Goth ever world shattering anyway) but it’s a lot of fun, as a matter of fact. Are we supposed to admit that?