reviews may 2001
Various, Situation Stylers (Aerosolik) CD
Nine out of ten b-boys who expressed a preference said they preferred Phat Robert's The Cat from this selection of (mostly) instrumental hip hop. Bob's lackadaisical beats and electro jabs are prime head-nod fodder, second only to a large bag of skunk and a talkative companion in a loud nightclub. Elsewhere, Percy Filth journeys to the Centre of Dickie Davies via a huge kick drum and a discotypical break, Refined drops a huge cloud of atmospherics onto a more than functional loop and Sirius 8000 dig up a low-end double bass sample to power their minimal cut. Other material is not as strong but as a debut release, it sets Aerosolik up nicely. www.aerosolikrecords.co.uk
Opaque, Temporary Lifestyle (Dental Records) CDS
Having spent no little time in Lancaster (I bought the first Shellac EP there many moons ago, trivia fans) I can see why Opaque might want to make this kind of post-industrial racket. The kind of thing you'd expect to find accompanying black and white film footage projected onto a demolition site in downtown Dresden as part of some art installation or other, Opaque's two improvised tracks beguile with a mixture of Warser Gate's quieter guitar scrapings and Ochre records' knack for spinning meaning out of no sound whatsoever. c/o Lancaster Music Co-op, 1 Lodge St, Lancaster LA1 1QW
KC Accidental, Anthems For The Could've Bin Pills (Noise Factory) CD
There's probably something conceptual about having 6 blank tracks out of 12 on an album. Perhaps they're saying that half of all music isn't worth listening to - but that's an under-estimate, surely? Perhaps they're saying that half of their music isn't worth listening to - but how do they know they've chosen the right half? Perhaps the six empty tracks represent songs that've been discarded because they're too good for the likes of you and me, or perhaps they only wrote six tracks, or perhaps there was a cock-up at the pressing plant. Whichever, the six cuts that remain are such subtle distillations of wistful daydreaming that we can only regret the lack of their siblings. Like the Phelan/Sheppard (nee State River Widening) collaborations for Rocket Girl, KC Accidental bleed out the tension from Galaxie 500 or the Cocteau Twin's more rocking moments and play what's left through tiny amplifiers into a large hall. Silver Fish Eyelashes throws in a bit of Fridge and Them (Pop Song #3333) a couple of pop pills. www.noisefactoryrecords.com
Various, Working With Children And Animals (Wasp Factory) CD
Two tracks each from The Chaos Engine, Arkham Asylum, Leech Woman, Goteki, Tarantella Serpentine, Hydra, Squid and Skinflowers. You could probably name their tune in one, but let me save you the trouble by filching from the publicity sheet this nugget: "industrial, darkwave and electronic rock."
The problem I always have with this stuff, apart from the fact that almost every exponent of it seems to have been locked into one bar of a DAF b-side for the last 20 years, is that I fear the pained emotion is as synthetic as the drums. I can never lose the feeling that Sputum MaterBaster is actually Jeremy Toffee-Anus from Horsham-Snotford, having a jolly good laugh on a load of poorly-programmed electronic equipment bought with Daddy's allowance. I have no basis for this prejudice, as you would expect, since none of the industrial types I've had the pleasure to meet have been any more pretentious than any of the other musicians I've come into contact with - but neither have they been the vomit-splattered spawn of Satan's sex donkey. Just look at Marilyn Manson for Christ's Sake.
My irrationality aside, you want to know what the music's like. Well, it's best when it's least industrial in the EBM sense of the word. Leech Woman are past-masters of grinding cacophony and don't disappoint here; Kincaid is Adam and the Ants being done over by a sinister but silent robotic henchman and Section 13 a cavernous swirl. Tarantella Serpentine's Cocaine Disco Riot wouldn't have been recognised at Studio 54 and is more acid than coke, but would probably incite public disorder with its pummelling attack and Skinflowers are the shy kids at the back of the party. On much better form here than their recent CDR demo, they try to fit in by slinging a chugging bass under Striplight but it doesn't work - we recognise them for the indie boys that they really are. Notoriously hopscotch in recent years, they've settled down somewhere on Radiohead's folkier side and we like it. www.wasp-factory.com email@example.com
The Plastic Plan, BASIC (Samizdat) CD
If you favour robots from the BBC Microcomputer Book of Robotic Projects (circa 1986) over the humanoid, and slightly menacing, Servotron model - or if Servotron's albums dont come round quickly enough for you - then The Plastic Plan might be of interest. Devo, of course, provide the electronic blueprint but with seemingly only enough RAM for two instruments at once, The Plastic Plan's take on the right-angle byte-funk is necessarily sparse. Imagine two Smash robots trying to be Suicide. firstname.lastname@example.org
Techno Animal, Dead Man's Curse (Matador) CD
Roger Robinson stands alone, arms outstretched, pure amidst a maelstrom of distressed hip hop and destroyed metallic techno. A preacher, he pleads, exhorts and despairs in equal measure. His target, humankind, are engrossed by the spectacle, but ambivalent about his message, a message all but drowned out by the inhuman noise surrounding him. If hip hop originally came up from the streets, Techno Animal are coming up from the Earth's core.
Various, Abuse Your Friends vol 3(Abuse) CD
Abuse fanzine always talked a good fight, even if the bands it covered frequently turned out to be indie/punk by numbers chod. Sid Abuse's incessant ranting, his hyperbolic hyperbollocks, the relentless bigging-up of whatever he was into/releasing that week was infectious, even for cynical old duffers like myself. And, fair play, he's put his money where his mouth is and Abuse records have chalked up releases from Vyvyan, The Pin Ups, Sugarcoma and three volumes of Abuse Your Friends. Like its two predecessors, this one is patchy and, like its zine ancestor, its top heavy with heard-it-all-before same old same old. But, as with its zine ancestor, there are some absolute gems tacked on the end. Shortwave ram a Kraut rod up the arse of The Fall's shakiest moments; Monkey Bob kazoos along to tin pot Country rhythms and could be a close relative of Belgium's finest, The Shovels; Mocket make a shifty Quickspace rattle and DJ Downfall's The Bump has little to do with Kenny's novelty hit and everything to do with the disco-electro interface as recorded on Tandy's cheapest equipment. PO Box 2168, Reading, Berks, RG1 7FN email@example.com
Mogul, Rotunda (Elefant) 7"
I was back home a few weeks ago. The ring road is now an enormous doughnut with a vast hole where the Bull Ring used to be. The chasm is filled with giant yellow Tonka toys and tiny ant-men while high above, shoppers shuffle along wooden walkways constructed by Fred Flintstone after he dreamt about The Jetsons. We are talking Birmingham and the Bull Ring is, or was, its major concrete attraction. Not far behind is the subject of Mogul's new single, the Rotunda. A building not threatened by the town planning cull, the Rotunda is cylindrical with rows of glass windows separated by black structural support making it look for all the world like an overgrown Rubik's Tube puzzle. Mogul reflect the 1960s futurist aspirations of its architects with their retro optimism filtered through budget moogs and a Telstar melody. They are the Poundstretcher Stereolab and this is full value for money. www.elefant.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Various, Continuous Sound Labordy Swn Cont (Fitamin Un) 12"
Most people, on finding themselves in a deep hole of their own making would stop digging. Not Fitamin Un, they've thrown away the spade and brought in a JCB. Previous releases have pandered to the popular conception of music, at the margins anyway, but this 5-tracker resists even token attempts at conformity. The players (or anti-players) are BomBoomBomb, Trwsfynydd Lo-Fi Liberation Front, SJ Omega, Llwyr Llaethog and Dave Handford. Their aim is to "push back sonic boundaries and challenge all expectations." In pursuit of this end, BBB reprise a cut from their demo tape based almost entirely on the word "Blah," Dave Handford strikes rocks together repeatedly, SJ Omega and TFLF offer up engaging rough-hewn drones and LL do something impossible to describe in words. Beautiful noise, though. 8 Stryd Tywysog Leopold, Caerdydd, CF24 0HT, Cymru uk.geocities.com/beatboxtaffy/index.html
King of Woolworths, Stalker Song (Mantra) 10"
Minitel Conspiracy, the b-side, crushes Voodoo Ray under the weight of its own infectious glee, sticks a load of odd speech over the top and disappears off into the middle of a packed dancefloor. The title cut, meantime, is being a moody bastard with a monster distorted breakbeat and digital surging funk.
Ambidextrous/Novel 23, Cross Split EP (Shaped Harmonics) 12"
Art is a product of its environment. Discuss. That should keep the chin-stroking brigade busy for a couple of hours. They might even stumble across a grain of relevance which can explain why the trickle of abstract Russian electronica (with EU and Fizzarum at the front) looks set to turn into a flood. Novel 23 and Ambidextrous share 6 tracks on this release, less abstract than EU but still fizzing and creaking with the tension of a deteriorating low-grade concrete tenement building. Novel 23 veers closest to dancefloor satisfaction, moving from the New Orderish robotics of Walk Now to the entirely friendly and melodic ML. Ambidextrous is the more interesting proposition, his Vox Box forcing Kraftwerk to decompose at gunpoint. www.mu.ru email@example.com
Father Of Boon, A Case Of Not Knowing Before (Growl-Wow) CDS
The Last Thing I Broke ends with a Basil Brush sample. Given the magpie tendency of the EP this is not particularly strange. Edgy and dubby, Father Of Boon graft an art-rock blade onto a pop handle to create a weapon all of their own. The cutting edge is sharpened up with Vented's hip hop to give the impression of a dark night in the alley at the back of the house Sonic Youth share with half of ADF. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
The Atlantic Manor, The Hate We Get Going/ When I Am A Viking (Do Too) both CD
If GBV were less in every respect - less rehearsed, less prolific, less proficient, less fast, less snappy - then they might sound like The Atlantic Manor. That's not meant as a slight on TAM, just a way of plotting their co-ordinates on the indie/rock radar Do Too claim to be flying below. New York White Face is the pick from The Hate.. It buries the vocal beneath a wannabee wall of fuzz and a rudimentary beat made up on the spot. There's no tune to speak of and no real dynamics, but it rocks. On When I Am A Viking, it's Breaking You In, a 3-minute 4-track Grandaddy cut bathed in home-recorded ambience and stretched out long past its natural length. "DIY Forever" it says on the sleeve. I'll second that. R. Sell, 5013 SW 154 PL, Miami FL 33185, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
Fuxa vs Ectogram (Ochre) CDS
48 Seconds of Jesus is a great title but ultimately takes the piss. Randall Nieman's other track, I Can Hear The Old Sister Say (Hallaluah) is also a great title, but stays well away from urinal tendencies. More organic than the recent collaboration with Add N to (X), it floats along on a ripple of guitar and a real beat. No less beautiful or mesmerising than the normal, but one you can tap along to. Ectogram's Opal Soft Green Kumquat Of The Sun takes the piss only with its title as the song combines magic with motorik to create a lengthy Pram jam. www.ochre.co.uk
Octavius. 4am, Electric Third Rail (JustOneEnt) CD
"The stage is a cage, the mic is a third rail" Rakim once said. It'd be good to hear someone like Rakim flow over these beats, shattered as they are by post-apocalyptic Geiger chatter, nuclear wind and industrial deconstruction. Like 2nd Gen, Techno Animal and others Octavius.4am are dropping rhymes over breeze blocking beats and ambient scapes. www.justoneent.com email@example.com
Various, Kilo Charlie 4 (Fu Man Chaw) CD
Lo-fi electronics are preferable to hi-fi for two reasons. First, the glitch element is upped by low technology. Second, the lesser the equipment, the greater the inventiveness required. Any fool can push the ZaiN-ee button on the latest auto-sequencer and churn out 28 varieties of drum'n'bass'u'like but when you're working the 4-track and the Atari VCS, you've got to box clever. The cleverest on this collection (which also includes a few disposable heroes of indie-cency) are Line 47 and their excellent hyperspace beats in the Mu-Ziq style, Whitetrash Shaolin and their Wisdom and Whiskey and Dharma where highly tentative, almost apologetic, rapping sits in ridiculously under-produced backing with a crew full of tailor's dummies shouting "ho" in the background, no doubt; rusuDen's splicing of a dozen electro records into one huge mash up and On Tap's drumming on table tops, railings and old saucepans at the Burundi-hip hop interface. www.fumanchaw.com
Big Block 454, That's A Nice Hat CDR
Thanks, I bought it from Boots for 50p after Christmas. There's not much call for sun hats in the middle of winter, but 50p did seem cheap, even if I do look like an extra from Spike Island: The Movie now. Opener, I Name This Child Acker Bilk, seems not only unnecessarily unkind but also an experiment in primitive rhyme ("Warm water, cold milk, I name this child Acker Bilk") and chance-driven structure. BB454 stop, start and fade at will, a jumble of post-Beefheart mishaps, they arrive at a conclusion somehow but along the way trip from odd jazz to overloaded guitar and shouting with uncommon ease. Cheap Kojak are kindred spirits as you'll find out if their EP on Pickled Egg ever materialises. www.bigblock454.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheap Kojak, Bits'n'Pieces CDR
When I was in the Scouts many years ago, we used to have a jumble sale every 3 or 4 months to raise funds to repair our ancient tents. We'd be there throwing bin bags full of smelly old clothes out of the loft at 9am; all the good stuff would have been picked out and put to one side ("Ooh, I'll give us 10p for that!") by 10.30 and at 11 the doors would open. All the OAPs within Zimmer distance would pour in, WWF holds would be exchanged as the old dears fought over a pair of orange tights "just right for our Jennifer," Chaos would stand astride the Scout hut and roar with pleasure and at 11.15 there would be silence. Anything in moderate condition would have been sniffed out and purchased for coppers and the tables left would support only piles of tatty remnants, the same stuff that we'd thrown out of the loft only a couple of hours previous and which had not left the building for 30 years or more. The sales typically made 20 quid.
Imagine now that sounds are available at the Scouts' jumble sale. In the scenario above, Cheap Kojak arrive at 12.15 when only a single Aldi carrier bag is still to be put away. It bulges with the sonic equivalents of piss-stained old underwear, shapeless handkerchiefs, odd shoes and stuffed teddy bears with no limbs. As they've made the effort to attend, the band rummage through the bag, pick out a handful of the less-smeggy items, hand over 5p, and leave. Once home, they tip their hoard into the sampler, stir well and press record. It sounds like an untrained monkey operating a 50-CD changer and a beat box with uncanny skill. email@example.com
Sandy Dillon, In East Overshoe (One Little Indian) CD
Is it too easy to just say Tom Waits and be done with it? Yes, and wrong as well. Sandy Dillon sings the blues with the same grainy expressivity as Waits while her band melt and deform like pocket watches in a Dali painting.
Garlic, LP sampler (Propylactic) CDS
Is it too easy to just say Lou Reed and be done with it? Yes, and wrong as well. Garlic are informed by post-Velvets guitar bands but can't get past the off-perfect perfection that Reed brought to his songs. Not quite homage, but its obvious that Garlic know their onions. www.garlicmusic.co.uk
Various, Su Pollard Deconstruction (NCR) CD
Is it too easy to just say V/Vm and be done with it? Yes, and wrong as well. Your NCR and Pigdog favourites chop Peggy the Chalet Maid into a million pieces, choose one, stretch it, compress it, loop it and then feed the lot through a distortion pedal. V/Vm appear as themselves. listen.to/ncr
Various, Yr Agog (Oggum) CD
Is it ever enough to be doing something just for a good cause? If you bought Mel and Kim's Rockin Around The Christmas Tree, you'll need read no further, just email Dafydd (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask him where to send your tenner. If you didn't buy it, congratulations on your taste, and please read on. Yr Agog is for a good cause - homeless charities in Wales - but has no hapless celebrities tied-in, no half-hearted novelty theme and no, or very little, publicity. What it does have is a wedge of quality tunes. Ole Lukkoye does a Transglobal Underground by weaving the Baltic into mellow techno; Longstone offer up an icy blast of their glacial electronic funk; Mooseheart Faith Stellar Groove Band delve again into the bag of underproduced psychedelia; FSA sound again like they did years ago: trashy JAMC at 33; Vom flexes a techno wobbleboard and Valvola blend melody and electro as usual. Also featured: Electroscope, Stylus, Hydroplane, Numbus 2000 and Magic Carpathians.
Beef Terminal, 20 GOTO 10 (Noise Factory) CD
I was one of those kids that used to stroll casually into Dixons, hands in the pockets of my patched-at-the-knee flared jeans, cherubic butter-wouldn't-melt face on, lips pursed whistling an innocuous tune, doing my best to exude an air of invisibility. By a circuitous route, I'd work my way over to the home computers, the shelf containing the Vic 20, the Dragon 32, the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum, choose one and quickly type
10 PRINT "VILLA RULE!"
I'd pause for a moment or two to admire my handiwork and then make a beeline for the door and safety. As I reflect now on my eleven-year-old self, I wonder whether the thrill was the illicit act - a victimless grafitti, the message, or the fact that I knew more than the shop assistants who were unable to arrest the continuous stream of schoolboy football worship.
Mike Matheson has a similar conundrum: what is the rationale of his Beef Terminal project? Is the act of playing an end in itself, is it a release from torment, or does the creation of a song encapsulate an emotion like an insect in amber? Or perhaps its the orbital hypnosis that the all-but unchanging guitar figures weave that render music a temporary relief. Demons are certainly present ("I sat at my kitchen table at two in the morning staring at the clock for exactly one hour - during that time I became convinced I was about to die") and they come through in the mostly instrumental tunes that trickle off the CD like Fuxa on just guitar and drum machine. www.noisefactoryrecords.com or email@example.com
Various, Now That's What I Call Valid (Artists Against Success) CD
Against success to the extent that this compilation is completely free, but not against success to the extent that they'd rather you didn't listen to it. Contrary, but this explains why AAS are offering all 13 tracks as MP3 downloads from their web site (www.aas.mcmail.com/now) and also why they've not just packed the album out with useless planks of Leicester-based chod. Johnny Domino cheekily render Bryan Adams' Summer of 69 (yuk yuk) as the Canadian National Anthem in a ridiculous 80s synth version - it is close to absurd genius. The Cuban Boys appear twice: once each with The Wandrin Allstars and Twinkie. The first is a ludicrously catchy vocoder-disco treat and the second is a ludicrously catchy fuzz-disco treat. Chicago by The Chemistry Experiment is a hidden Hefneresque gem and The Fighting Cocks secure a place in all our hearts with Bands From London (Are Shit.) The label rounds things off in (cough) style with their company song.
Die Moulinettes, Alfa Bravo Charlie (SHADO) CD
Another casualty of the destruction that moving house wreaks on a record collection. This one's been sitting at the back of a pile of boxes for months now, a near criminal act of negligence on my part, and I'm starting the community service later today. Die Moulinettes make the same kind of stylish French 60s pop as Stereolab in their more soft-focus moments, but sung largely in German. Never has the language sounded as desirable as on this record. The album proper is 8 tracks long (perfect) but is accompanied by 8 further tracks of remixes (also perfect) by the likes of The High Llamas, Stereo Total, Valvola and The Maxwell Implosion. The pick is Love Air revised by Valvola which tells of an airline hijack in the style of a swinging London promotional film. www.shadorecords.com
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