In some ways the confusion they generate is akin to having a room full of blindfolded, hyperactive, Haribo-stuffed kids who are all trying to pin the tail on the donkey.
More stuff for this month’s March round up! I enjoyed doing the other piece so much that I thought, ach, what else can I round up; whilst coming on like some old, velvet jacketed, fag stained, “toupéd” lothario on one of them late night film review shows? Well here’s some stuff! Yowzah Yowzah Yowzah!
Betonfraction - Sure 'Nuff 'n Yes We Do http://betonfraktion.bandcamp.com/
First up we have the new EP from Tilburg’s premier Dadaistes, Betonfraktion. Now I really like this band but they ain’t an easy listen, oh no. They make a racket that is both Fast and Bulbous, got that? And their new EP, which references the CAPTAIN in spades, is a brilliant, bejeweled, intricate gauntlet thrown down from the castle ramparts to us poor peasants to wonder over and, doubtless misinterpret. In some ways the confusion they generate is akin to having a room full of blindfolded, hyperactive, Haribo-stuffed kids who are all trying to pin the tail on the donkey; messy, too much, giddily anarchic but something that, if you just go with the confusion, is really enjoyable in a very odd way. Their agitational noise is in some ways unequalled in Holland; they feel much more like a German band to me. This may sound obvious if you already know they sing a lot in German, (e.g. Rattle Your Brain on this EP) but they are also pushy, in yer face, messy, prepared to fall on their arses, and happy to leave cavernous silences or ludicrous over extensions of a particular phrase or idea in their music; which many Dutch experimental, or “difficult” bands do in a half-arsed manner. It’s lurid stuff, but really enervating and good; and stuff that wrings every ounce of their message out for you. In case you didn’t get it first time around. Don’t play it early in the day or you may find you lose your sense of balance.
Jesse Sparhawk & Eric Carbonara – Tributes and Diatribes http://www.carbohawk.com
Ah, sublime! After a few plays of this LP, I feel like I should be sitting in some shaded glade in Arcady, therewith to better converse with Ye Beasts of the Field. Man, this LP from Jesse Sparhawk & Eric Carbonara really spins me out. We get four long, long seemingly extempore pieces that send the listener out into a fabulously loose contemplative space. Though you wouldn’t initially get that, as opener Alemu takes a bit of time in appreciating. In some ways you need to negotiate this piece before tackling the rest of the LP, and in turn realising what a cracker of a record you’re tuning into. No, Alemu is possibly the most atypical track on the record, a clever stop-start piece that builds up expectation for five minutes, before it settles down into a steady plod. It’s weirdly like a mix of Japanese Noh incidental music and bluegrass. Why I came up with that I just don’t know, and I am well aware that I could be talking complete codswallop. But fine. Elsewhere, tracks like Yellow Bird and Twilight Lamento are bathed a spiritual light that mainly emanates from Sparhawk’s beautiful runs on the Lever Harp; which are in turn backed by some flamenco style guitar patterns from Carbonara. It’s a beautifully soft, but incredibly dynamic record. Actually, it’s a fucking zone out.
Rebekka Karijord - Music for Film and Theatre http://www.rebekkakarijord.com
More patient stuff, this time from Rebekka Karijord. This is a fine, fine record that again could pass you by. I mean, the title isn’t the most imaginative, nor appealing. As soon as you see Music for Film and Theatre you immediately start to think, ‘ah yes I know what this sounds like, it’s gonna be sensitive and quietly nuanced and all the time a wee bit pretentious and arty and the thing middle aged blokes in salmon coloured pants will dig’. Well, yes... but... no. This LP has a hell of a lot of tension, and power. It’s incredibly well balanced and also tough; some of the pieces like Salhus and Jag Ser Dig have this tension to them that is, well, very exciting. At times tracks like Lullaby float around like some ancient, dragon-prowed ship; gently bobbing on the dock at the Grey Havens, waiting to carry the elves off to pastures new. Fucking ghostly. Listen to Madrigal or Morula for proof. A quiet classic, methinks.
The Highs and Lows of Jacques Caramac & The Sweet Generation (Everyday Life Recordings / Rocket Girl)
Not sure what to make of this. It’s got some great pop tunes and a willing attitude that carries a lot of the record’s faults very well, but I just can’t get it totally. But there’s enough of this record that I get that in turn makes me want to write about it. And some of the opening tracks, like El Dorado, and Snowballs are absolutely brilliant; cheeky, astringent, aspirant, and careering all over the place like some pished up roué walking home on a bright Saturday morning through Brussels; a fag stuck in the corner of his mouth, and a carnation in his buttonhole. It’s not all breakneck stuff; Passive Smoker is a slow, melancholic track that boasts a great amount of swagger, and has this rough unfinished feel to it that stops the track getting pompous, or laddish. But elsewhere, the LP doesn’t manage to carry this early promise. For sure it’s good, It Takes All Sorts is a weird underpowered mix of Robyn Hitchcock, Colin Newman and the Skellington Chronicles and Kream Puff is enjoyably pithy but things seem to run out of steam after the opening charge. Still, the lad Caramac has something, certainly.
Samaris – Silkidrangar http://www.indian.co.uk
Is this absolute nonsense or brilliant? You see, when someone starts singing in another language, (in this case Icelandic) joy/inquisitiveness/attraction of The Other takes over and sorta dulls the critical senses. Still, the first track is a Bobby Dazzler, regardless; Nótt is this weird amalgam of sounds and attitudes that’s coming in from somewhere east of Venus. The rest, well, I just don’t know playmates. It’s either underachieving nonsense that gets away with it due to the Icelandic that’s pebble-dashed throughout, or a work of profound pop brilliance; an understanding and appreciation of which needs a special space-age key made of metals the thieves who nick lead off our roofs can only dream of. I really hope the latter. I’ll get back to ya.
Wymond Miles - Cut Yourself Free (Sacred Bones)
We loved Wymond Miles’ last LP, and this is another cracking release; full of vim and melancholy angst and clanging, chiming chords. This record sees Wymond lost in some moody contemplation; an exercise that needs a lot of time alone, thinking.... It’s them song titles that give it all away, stuff like Night Drives, Vacant Eyes, Love Will Rise, Why Are You Afraid... though in fairness this shouldn’t come as a surprise to his fans, and I can’t think of anything he’s done that is particularly chirpy. No matter, the guitar chimes and crashes in a way I really like, and the ‘boom-boom-boom’ of the drums is suitably portentous. The opening track The Ascension takes an AGE to get going, but it turns out to be a great way to start this record, as there are no quick frills no cheap tricks here. Rather, Cut Yourself Free has got that doomy mid-paced crash of all my favourite Chameleons records. Night Drives is fabulous too, boasting a reedy synth wash that sets itself up to propel a really great melody line, (which nearly topples over into becoming Love’s Alone Again, Or...) which our Wymond emotes breathlessly over. It’s like Thatcher never left office.
Moon King – Obsession (Tough Love Records)
WOAH! THIS RECORD SOUNDS LIKE CURVE WHEN THEY WERE GOOD, BUT CAMP! Pin a cockade to your favourite hat and skip merrily around your street. I mean Curve were alright, going on middling in my humble estimation, but they did boast one or two cracking early EPs. This bunch take that Curve grind and growl (like on Violence) to make saccharine candy bar guitar girl pop at its best; a bit like Lush too, but speedier, buzzier, Gothier, Bauhaus-ish. The opening track Only Child is just coming in from another planet; the melody’s weird, kids, weird. It just has a different appreciation of what an attractive song is, and this quality, I love. In spades. And Appel swathed in high register tinny feedback of Ye Moste luscious kind, that dreadful MBV sound before they got horny. Here, Moon King tries to make a Joan Jett, lo-cal metal-lite thing out of it. The noise that makes dogs bark and your dad bang on the ceiling. Sweet nothings elsewhere are provided by Crucified, and Sleeping In My Car which is ADHD set to music. I like it loads and you’ll probably wonder why I’m wetting my breeks. I may hate it next week. Cover is wild, too.
Tycho – Awake (Ghostly International)
I love playing this; it’s such a hopeful record, even if it sounds like erm well mainstream oops oh no. Ach, who cares? Tycho combine these pleasingly fat beats and sentimental yet hopeful chord progressions; a bit Michael Rother solo stuff, and a bit U2. Tracks like L and Awake are just fabulously endearing and dewy eyed; like a faithful hound ready to run to its master’s call. And See is the ultimate soundtrack to some TV programme about building special needs schools in the sticks. In a very GOOD way. Not much else to say. Give it a spin.
Headland – Sound/track (Headland records)
Is this a sound track or a record taking the piss out of soundtracks? In any event, it’s an intriguing listen as it’s not a normal record in a lot ways, despite it going about its business in a pretty unobtrusive manner. It’s just too loose, too willful, too messy, and not at all coherent in the normal sense of a record looking to create an overall feel. Maybe because about 500 musicians play on it. The all too short opening instrumental, Pulled 4 Pins is a fabulous opening, one which reminds me of the similarly languorous and trippy opener to the famous Serpents record from way back. Elsewhere there are country and bluegrass inflections (all a bit psychedelic too, a bit parched and drained... like Evermast, If You Want Me and Halftide) a lot of wide open spaces in the music that set up this very atmospheric backdrop. Everything proceeds at about 2 miles an hour, which is just fine. It’s sultry, hot stuff, a bit sunburned and a bit sticky. There are some cracking pop tunes masquerading as instrumentals too, such as Head-High. And there’s a fairly wry sense of humour at work, but I can’t really put my finger on it, what the joke is. Never mind, it’s a real slow burner, worth your time.
Puin + Hoop - Er Zit Een Gat in De Soep http://www.narrominded.com
Ach don’t you just love those cussed Narrrominded boys? They keep knocking out uncompromising records by the dozen. This new LP by Puin and Hoop is onesuch. Three tracks of ear bleeding, often harmonic, and very concentrated loops and hums and throbs; a record that’s got something of T-Dream’s Electronic Meditation about it; it’s that Schnitzler drone above the first track that does it. The squiggles and bleeps on the opener also sound like the band have drugged Watussi from Harmonia’s first LP. So; total uncompromising minimal nonsense that’s also pretty fucking inspired; especially when the pressure begins to mount and the sonic lid blows off. Fucking get down! So yeah, this is a pretty righteous noise and a shit sight better than a lot of what passes for similar. There again I’m the sort of bloke who can sit next to a chest freezer and dig the hums so, please, if you DON’T want to listen to a never-changing set of drones and throbs, however harmonic or inspired, then I guess you won’t like this and you have no Tony Conrad or Terry Riley records in your collection. I have. Loads. And I likes them.
(And boy I know the Puin + Hoop chaps are committed dudes, they once brought this throbbing racket to a VEGAN SQUAT in Leiden and scared off the punters. We need more of that sort of thing, quite frankly.)