Monday, 12 May 2008

COH Plays Cosey

This is the first part of a collaboration between Ivan Pavlov (COH, Soisong) and Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle, Chris and Cosey, Carter Tutti).

The basic premise behind this album is that Ivan takes vocal recordings make by Cosey and turns them into this album. He does this very successfully whilst retaining his trademark COH sound with the rhythms and pulses you’d expect but it does have the feel of a true collaboration rather than just becoming COH featuring Cosey. You have Cosey’s spoken vocals coming through in snatches here and there and her cornet also makes an appearance.

In the press release that accompanies this a lot is made of the lack of inhibition and the openness of the use of private material that Cosey used to create the lyrics. This doesn’t particularly come across in what you hear or what you read as the words of the pieces themselves are too ambiguous for anyone not familiar with the context from which they were derived to really make that much sense of them. The lyrics printed in the booklet that comes with the CD are extracts from email exchanges.

There’s a sexual undercurrent going on in the delivery of some of the vocals, some of the lyrics and the photo of Ivan and Cosey on the back of the booklet. What this is alluding to I have no idea it’d be interesting to have more background on the themes they are exploring as you’re left feeling you have more questions than answers. It also appears to suggest in the introduction Cosey has written that there is some element of catharsis involved in the project.

It took a while to really get to grips with this. It’s by no means instant gratification but it has stood up to repeated plays and gets more and more compelling the more you hear it.
It’s a fine addition to the discographies of both of them and I’m looking forward to part 2 of the collaboration.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Andrew Liles & Jean-Herve Peron - Fini !

A collaboration between Jean-Hervè Peron of Faust and Andrew Liles of Nurse With Wound.

Andrew Liles seems to be flavour of the month at the moment. Popping up here there and everywhere. From remixing classic Current 93 albums, to performing with Nurse With Wound to this most unlikely of collaborations. If you’d have asked me who I thought Andrew Liles was likely to be working with next, Jean-Hervè Peron would never have been someone I would have thought of. I always associate Andrew Liles with a very electronic/ experimental sound much more built up from samples and keyboards and then processed rather than the more traditional sounds of guitars, drums and vocals that we get here. That said this does work pretty well and they have created a very entertaining album.

The album starts with its longest piece “The Drummer is on Valium.” I love this track. Basically consisting of JHP saying “The Drummer is on Valium,” backed by a tribal sounding drum pattern sounding not too dissimilar to Faust or maybe Nurse With Wound’s “Swamp Rat.” After a couple of minutes a guitar comes in with a sound very much like that from Faust’s “Baby” from 71 Minutes of Faust. The eight minutes this runs for fly by and I’d be more than happy to have an extended version to listen to.

Next up is “I Do Not Like To Get Wet,” a cheerful little piece played on what sounds like a couple of different brass instruments with the odd other sound thrown in for good measure. No vocals on this one and it has a sort of oompah pah feel to it.

“Shut Up and Sit Down,” follows, a pleasant acoustic guitar track as the back ground with some little “additional “ sounds that have Andrew Liles written all over them. Vocally we get JHP basically saying the title in French with slight variations here and there. All reminds me of Daevid Allens early 70’s solo albums. It’s piece that wouldn’t be out of place on Faust IV.

“Cuculiformes” is a short gentle guitar piece that follows on nicely from “Shut Up…” it’s a nice interlude before the heavier sounding “We Are Ready Here,” starts. This begins with a deep resonant synth line that suddenly is blasted away by a powerful synth solo line and trebly distorted guitar. All very manic and underpinned by the original synth line that’s hiding nicely in the background waiting until it get s a bit of quiet to get itself noticed again. This is very much a Faust track to me. Andrew Liles isn’t particularly noticeable or at least is contributing in a style I wouldn’t expect of him.

“Sans Paroles,” is another one of those gentle guitar tracks that wouldn’t be out of place on Faust IV.

Then we have “The Fly on the Windowsill is Dead.” There’s definitely a big Nurse With Wound influence going on here, or at least a Steven Stapleton one. This reminds me very much of Current 93’s In Menstrual Night album. An eerie sounding track with lots of creaking, groaning and low pitched hums only given slight respite in the middle with a montage of vocals by JHP and some brief speech samples. I would have to suggest this track is too short and it would really benefit from being given longer to develop more and to be allowed to really suck you in. It’s a good piece but I could definitely have done with more of it.

“Shake Your Hooves,” is another piece that is more Faust than anything else. It’s a huge groove of bass, drums and guitar sounding like it could have been the noisier more extrovert brother of Faust’s ”Listen To the Fish”, or “Hurricane.”

“Nosferatu” is another pleasant guitar interlude with some whistling and singing from JHP to accompany it. A calming track to take you down from the intensity of the previous two.

Next is “I Lost Faith In Words.” It’s a jazzier affair. The sort of backing you might get to a Kerouac spoken word album. Instead of Kerouac we have JHP narrating in both English and French. Not a bad track but probably my least favourite on the album.

Then we’re back to the NWW humour “Congo Bongo La La La.” Starts with some ambient drones backed with some gentle bongos only to suddenly turn itself on its head with a burst of humourous vocals very much in an early Nurse With Wound style.

Another guitar interlude arrives as “?” the shortest piece on the album but perhaps just there as a break before “It’s Too Loud.” One of the strongest pieces of the album this starts with what sounds like some string synth sounds and the occasional guitar note and JHP discussing the sound levels with Andrew Liles. It’s mutates into JHP speaking German and then slowly builds. The intensity of the sounds increases with a guitar riff some snare drum and JHPs vocals and becomes a lovely piece of prime Krautrock.

The whole album finishes, appropriately enough, with “Fini.” A short one minute track with a small thud and some crackles as a background to JHP talking and then it all ends with the word “fini” repeated a few times.

I was really unsure of what to expect from such an unlikely collaboration but I found it to be a really enjoyable album and one that I’ve returned to plenty of times in the last week and can see myself continuing to do so for some time to come.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Nurse With Wound - Man With The Woman Face - bonus disc

To accompany the reissue of Nurse With Wound’s “Man With The Woman Face” album a CD of bonus material is included. The bonus material CD is available to buy as a separate item so those who already purchased the World Serpent edition in 2002 don’t have to buy the album all over again.

The bonus material consists of three tracks. One remix, one unreleased piece and a home demo. The first piece “Beware The African Mosquito” (Blue Lacuna mix) is not a million miles away from the mix on the main album. It’s a very ambient piece with a rising and falling keyboard chord as it’s anchor as other elements (percussive, rhythmic, vocal, steam, etc come and go). and some insect/buzzing sounds that pan left to right nicely through the piece It reminds me a lot of Spiral Insana era Nurse or bits of Rock n Roll Station. It’s got a nice warmth to it.

Track two “Camel Be Air” is the previously unreleased piece. Whereas the other two tracks are by Steven Stapleton and Colin Potter this one has the addition of Peat Bog, Dave Andrews and Little Annie. It starts as a more brooding track than the first, darker but still in an ambient sort of way. The instrumentation begins by sounding very much like there’s a lot of bowed strings going on and some low in the mix guttural sounds. About five minutes in to this primeval sound a rhythm starts with a slow bass line shadowing it almost giving the track a lounge or easy listening feel. Add in a bit of sax the odd flute note, the odd harmonic from a guitar string and occasionally Little Annie’s voice and you get what the whole piece has been building up to…..

Track three is the home demo of “White Light From The Stars In Your Mind.” Being a demo this isn’t too different in its basic ideas and sounds from the final version. It’s very much a stripped down version of the finished idea. It sets off with a drum rhythm not that unlike the one in Swamp Rat and some vocals that often repeat the title of the track in sped up or slowed down recordings. And that is more or less how it continues. There are other sounds making a brief and undistinguished appearance here and there but as I’ve already said it’s very much a stripped down version of the real deal. The low level keyboard chord that runs through the final track is noticeably missing as are the other little NWW trade marks that you get with the version on the proper album. Good perhaps to listen to from a perspective of getting an idea of how a NWW track starts off its journey but a long way from being the magnificent piece it finally became.

Worth putting your hand in your pocket for, the first two tracks are certainly classic style Nurse tracks. The third is perhaps only for obsessives. But then I guess most NWW fans are obsessives.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Coil - Live In Porto

This is an authorised bootleg of a Coil gig on the 21st June 2003 in Porto, Portugal. Coil for this show was Peter Christopherson, Thighpaulsandra & Ossian Brown. Jhonn Balance was too ill to attend so we instead get an (almost) instrumental set. The Cds come in three different coloured covers with a plastic disc the same size as the CD in clear plastic with the track titles written on it. I believe there were a total of 600 of these made. A number of them (they haven’t said how many) have been “discovered,” and are on sale from the Coil website.

With out Jhonn Balance you really are missing a vital ingredient of Coil and I think this shows on a number of tracks. First up is Blue Rats. A very different sounding Blue Rats to the one on the Foxtrot album. 18 minutes long and sounding more like a number of other tracks played together. I’m sure I can hear bits of Sex With Sun Ra in there. This doesn’t really come together until the last five minutes when it starts to sound more like Blue Rats and the synths get a bit more lively.

Next up is Triple Sun. This is a much more in your face version than the Mutek one from a week earlier, powerful, punchy and with more bottom end. You really do miss the vocals here. Listening to the versions of this on “And The Ambulance Died In His Arms,” and “The Ape of Naples,” you get a much more complete piece. This is followed with the mournful sounding Radio Westin a piece that with its’ short repetitive refrain would work well as film soundtrack material. You get some very low in the mix vocals going on here. Few words, mostly a sort of humming along. I’m guessing by Peter Christopherson. Track four Drip Drop is rather uninspiring and has the audience talking through most of it until what sounds almost like bagpipes make an appearance. Unfortunately their arrival isn’t really enough to save a lacklustre track and this one is very forgettable. The performance is rounded off with a much longer though fairly faithful rendition of The First Five Minutes After Death from” Horse Rotavator.”

Even after taking into consideration the lack of proper recording facilites used for this recording it still comes across as a bit of a patchy and substandard release, possibly one for completists only. Triple Sun and Radio Westin (and possibly The First Five Minutes After Death) make it worthwhile hearing but really without Balance Coil only come across as a fairly decent group than the force they really were.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

COH - Strings

COH is Ivan Pavlov a Russian who lives in Sweden. He’s been having work released since 1998 when “Enter Tinnitus” came out on Raster Noton.

Ten years on from that first release and we get what is described as an “attempt to reconcile the aesthetics of digital sound with that of the more traditional music instruments and to enrich the respective domains with the qualities of each other.” I’m not sure that they necessarily enrich the respective domains of each other. I can see how the traditional sounds are used to enrich the digital domain but not really the other way around.

Various source materials are used here. A Yamaha Grand Piano, A Red Musima Elektra V Guitar and improvised recordings of a Saz and an Oud.

Three of the four pieces that make up Part 1 and Part 2 sound much like familiar COH territory, the hard pulsing rhythmical sounds you’d expect are very prevalent. Track one is noticeably different in that it’s very obviously a piano based track where the sounds of the piano haven’t been manipulated too far beyond their origins. It works as a nice gentle introduction and as a nice counterpoint to the second track of Part 1. Part 2 is made of two tracks that use a guitar that Ivan purchased in the USSR in 1988. You can hear the basis for the track in the distorted guitar sounds but they’ve been played around with enough to give it feel not too dissimilar to what you think of as a COH sound. Maybe not a million miles away from Pan sonic at their heaviest.

The last two tracks on this first CD are where you really get the sense of Ivan trying to mix the traditional with the digital. Particularly noticeable here is that he’s given the Oud and the Saz the main part of the stage and is using the digital elements very much as a means of complimenting them rather than just incorporating them into his COH sound.

CD 2 is made up of one piece called SU-U which was first recorded as a quadraphonic installation piece for Sonar 2006. It’s 17 minutes long and again uses the Oud and the Saz. The first half of the piece is very mellow, very ambient, the sort of sounds you’d expect in an installation really and it’s hard to spot any of the Saz or Oud. About 8 minutes in when the digital sounds get slightly heavier and more insistent you then have some Eastern sounding tunes being played out on one of the two instruments. The last few minutes of the track again descend into ambient territory with the Oud or Saz (I don’t know which is which) taking prominence.

A nice idea here combining the digital and traditional and trying to get them to compliment each other. But as good an album as it makes to listen to I’m not entirely sure the experiment is a total success. To be so would require more of the original sounds getting more involved rather than those acting primarily as accessories.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Angels of Light - We Are Him

I lost interest to a large extent in Angels of Light after the second album. From then on it seemed to become very folksy (for want of a better word) not particularly exciting or dynamic and the whole essence of what I liked about Michael Gira seemed to have disappeared into complacency. I could of course be very wrong and perhaps he was putting his all into what he was doing but it seemed to my ears to be a second rate Gira we were hearing. So when I heard “Black River Song” from “We Are Him,” I was surprised. The passion, energy and dynamics that I felt had been lost had returned and the sound was fuller more powerful and certainly worth exploring.

It’s a much richer sound, there’s power here not dissimilar to what you’d have expected from a Swans album around the time of “White Light…” It opens with Black River Song which is centred around a powerful 4/4 thud with Gira reciting his lyrics over a repetitive riff with a bass sound reminiscent of Algis Kizys time in Swans coupled with female backing vocals exceedingly Jarboe like. It’s an incredible opener. We switch immediately to a much mellower country-ish almost track but the dramatic change in pace and intensity work well. The whole album seems to be a mixture of hard followed by soft rather like the Children of God album.

This is a side of Gira I really enjoy. I much prefer this to any of the recent Angels of Light albums that seemed too much to want to head down the road that Devendra Banhart had travelled. I always found Gira’s intensity was what drew me in to his music and he seemed to have tried to move away from that. I’m glad he’s moving back in that direction again.

Monday, 28 January 2008

PJ Harvey - White Chalk

PJ Harvey’s latest album is a marked departure from what you’ve come to expect. White Chalk is filled with unusual instruments not usually dominant on a PJ Harvey recording such as piano the Zither, banjo, broken harp, cig fiddle etc and very little guitar. It’s probably the best album she’s made since Is This Desire. The songs sound very stripped back, very honest. It has a feel of a very personal album. Unlike previous albums you get no lyrics to read so have to try and guess what it’s about from the words you can make out. An almost a depressing album, it sounds bleak yet at the same time beautiful and compelling. You start to feel like you’re eaves dropping on a very private performance.

It’s certainly a world away from the loud brash and ultimately disappointing PJ Harvey by numbers that was Uh-Huh Her. I think at that point it seemed like she was almost just filling a contractual obligation and delivering what the label expected of her. White Chalk feels like an album that had a lot of thought put into it before hand. A new direction, a new sound, even with familiar faces such as Flood and John Parish helping out (though Mick Harvey is noticeably absent). This is the first time John Parish has been on a PJ Harvey recording since Is This Desire and you have to wonder how much of an influence he is here. This certainly has a lot more in common with the Parish/Harvey album Dance Hall at Louse Point (even though that’s still very much a “guitar” album) than it does with recent Harvey albums. I have to wonder if perhaps John Parish doesn’t perhaps bring out the best in PJ.

Highlights here are “The Devil,” with it’s almost Good Vibrations repeated piano/tambourine motif. “White Chalk,” an simple sounding acoustic guitar led track that is possibly one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever heard, short and sweet. “Broken Harp,” a track played on what presumably is a broken harp and sounds almost like a Nico outtake and the very lovely “Silence,” another piano motif led track accompanied by what sounds like some light brush work on a snare.

What I love about PJ Harvey’s songs here, and particularly the piano led pieces are the simplicity of them. I believe she only started writing on piano for the first time for this album and the simplicity of her piano riffs really makes the songs sound as special as they are.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Angel - Kalmukia

Angel is Ilpo Vaisanen (Pan Sonic) Hildur Gudnadottir (Lost In Hildurness) and Dirk Dresselhaus (Schneider TM). Ilpo and Dirk have worked and released material as Angel for a couple of years but to the best of my knowledge this is the first time they’ve recorded with Hildur (she also appears on the current Pan Sonic album).

I don’t have the proper cover for this as it’s a promo so I’m not sure how the cover relates to the sounds as Ilpo is credited with “story and drawings,” so I’m wondering if this is supposed to be the soundtrack to a story printed on the cover.

The sounds itself are nothing like either Pan Sonic or Schneider TM. The same elements are there but this often veers closer to modern classical than it does to experimental.
The whole feel of this album is very subdued and slow moving there’s nothing rushed everything moves along at it’s own pace. Even the first track with it’s use of loud heavy guitar still only moves at a slighter faster pace than say a recent Earth track. It wouldn’t feel out of place on Earth’s “Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method.”

The guitar takes a back seat for the middle of the album. Tracks two and three (Kalmukia and Effect of Discovery) are both led by the cello. Kalmukia is a very mournful sounding piece, the cello playing slowly as some background electronics very subtly start to take over the piece. It fades out to five minutes of a restrained collection of taps and ambient electronics. Effect of Discovery starts of sounding like Stockhausen’s 1950s Electronic Studies. Again very subdued and understated with the cello starting to make its mark a few minutes in. The whole track starts to get busier with more electronics and a slightly heavier feel to it. The last track Aftermath reminds me of Tangerine Dream around the time of Hyperborea. It has a similar range of sounds to that album with a slightly Eastern tinge to it. Sounds like lots of loose guitar strings going through some delay with some slightly discordant cello sounds behind it. For me this is the weakest piece on the album it hasn’t got the slightly sinister ambience of (particularly) tracks two and three and though it’s got a nice balance of light and dark it’s too uplifting in comparison with the rest of the album. Again I think maybe the cover would explain more and perhaps make it clear why this track sounds as it does.

On the whole it’s a good album it’s not what I expected having heard Ilpo’s solo album of a few years ago but after a few listens it’s certainly a grower and it’s good to see people step outside the box and surprise you.

Released by the EditionsMego label on the 21st Jan 2008

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Harmonia - Live 1974

Harmonia had a brief existence both in time and output. The sessions for Neu! 2 being rushed by a lack of finance for recording led Michael Rother to explore pastures new and in 1973 he teamed up with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius of proto-ambient band Cluster and together they formed (what has been described as a Krautrock supergroup called) Harmonia.

Two albums came out of this partnership. “Musick von Harmonia” in 1973 and “Deluxe” in 1975. Somewhere in between the two albums Harmonia performed live at the Penny Station Club a former railway station in Griessem in Germany.

What you get on this newly released album is 5 tracks none of which appear on the two albums (or the collaboration album with Eno that finally got released in 1997 20 years after it was recorded). All have the feel of improvisation about them and are deceptively hypnotic, the synth lines and basic electronic beats slowly dragging you along as they develop, swell and fall as guitar lines drift in and out. It’s not a million miles away fromthe minimalist worlds of La Monte Young or Terry Riley.

The audience is notably silent. Maybe they were too entranced to clap or maybe the means by which this was recorded has managed to record the music on it’s own. The cover doesn’t give much away. No information except the date it was recorded (23rd March 1974 and the track titles). It’s interesting to listen a track like Arabesque and see how much of an influence a band like Harmonia were on Eno at the time. The guitar sounds on the same track also bring to mind Steve Hillage. (Whether the paths of Harmonia, Neu! And Gong ever crossed I don’t know, might have made an interesting meeting).

The album flows incredibly well. Instrument wise you have synth, electronic percussion, electronic organ, piano and guitar. Starting with the mellow and understated Schaumburg and then drifting effortlessly into the slightly more energetic Veteranissimo (the longest piece at 17 minutes). Arabesque follows with it’s Eno and Hillage sounds. The album reaches it’s crescendo with Holta-Polta a far noisier affair with rhythm sounds that wouldn’t be out of place on a Throbbing Gristle album and some unsettling synth dissonances and ethereal noises floating in and out of the mix. The album then brings you gently back down to earth with the mellower trance like Ueber Ottenstein.

While this has only been my first purchase of 2008 I think it’s going to be hard pushed not to be one of the top albums of 2008. These tracks are over 30 years old but still manage to sound innovative and fresh even though the recording quality is not the crystal clear sharp digital sounds we’ve all become used to these days. A truly stunning album and I’d love to see more live Harmonia albums get released over the next few years.