reviews june 2002

Quetzatl, Chilam Balam (Diskatopia) CD/ Movement and Measure CDR

Quetzatl is an unreconstructed jungle head. For him, intelligent drum’n’bass never happened (the lucky fellow) and so across the 13-cut length of Movement and Measure, the beat never stops pumping, the bass never stops twisting crazily around itself and the dance just never stops. Chilam Islam adds the mythical historico-futuristic stylings and rhythms of ancient South America and the spacemen some believe founded its cultures. POB 1167, Chattanooga, TN 37401, USA

I Am Spartacus, Forward! (Gringo) CD

Forward! For a record that’s been lost virtually since the weekend it was recorded four years ago, it’s one of the great ironic titles of our time. Stationary! Would have been better although Backwards! suited when various attempts to release it fell through and the "Brummie" bootleg began to circulate. I Am Spartacus are still a going concern of sorts, although the line-up that recorded this record broke up immediately – the recording session being a farewell to one of their members. The core of the band is Neil Johnson of Bob Tilton fame, but you won’t find that band’s emo perfectionism here – except in the sense that I Am Spartacus is both emotional and perfect. The album is ten tracks of stunningly beautiful instrumental minimalism. It’s an object lesson in spatial awareness, the sound of silence and musical trust and rapport. A group of close friends sit in a circle in a studio. One of them starts to play – a cello line – another joins in – sympathetic cymbals – and then a third – tremblingly tentative guitar. The others wait. At a nod the pianist drops a couple of chords and lets them echo around the room. He adds a short piano run, the cellist stops and listens. Bass and guitar start to lock into a groove. Five minutes have passed since the cellist started, five minutes of improvised preciousness but it seems only a couple of seconds so absorbed are the friends. One by one they slot into the groove and build to a crescendo. Gently, gently, aahh, aaahhhhh. PO Box 3904, Clacton on Sea, Essex, CO15 5TF

Darkembraced, Rape (Burning Emptiness) CD

So you don’t really like metal any more? Try this. Not quite geared low enough to qualify as sludgecore, but still this is the sounds of the Sabbath. Well, the Black Sabbath/ Beta Blockers intersection anyway. Darkembraced drop a beat, a hard-edged, tight beat, and use it as the anvil on which to slowly pound out jagged riffs. The vocals are as silly as you’re afraid they will be, so it’s instrumentals like Summoning The Spirit that work best. Del Nista, Chemin de Saint Marc, Mauran, 13130 Berre L’Etang, France

Various, Floralia Volume 4 (Mizmaze/Wot 4) CD

The head gardener of this musical Eden would be a man to meet. Mescaline in one hand, a guitar in the other and Rorschach artwork in a third he floats through the flowers stirring up swirls of petal, pollen and peace which gently coalesce into bands and songs and deep psychedelia. The bands hail from across the globe, the songs are varied but circle around stoked-out rock core and the deep psychedelia is, well, deep. Picks from the bunch are Fit & Limo’s When The World Began which blends a love of folk music into the mix, Baba Zulu’s digital robopsyche, Schwarz’s Punkadelic with all its Shellac jerkisms and outer space sounds and the 3 Eyed Monster of melody and clang that is Lazily Spun. Via F. Villa 6, 20134 Milano, Italy

Ciccone, All Stacked Up (Muff) CDS

So you’ll play it 20 times across a weekend after seeing them on Friday night and getting the single after the gig. You’ll think it’s the new wave of new wave of new wave of something or other and then you’ll put the CD down and never see it again. But that’s what it’s all about: the instant hit and then disposability.

Mark 700, Cohiba (Fortuna Pop) CD

There’s a note in the CD sleeve, a billet-doux from the self-styled El Presidente of Fortuna Pop, a thank-the-Lord sigh of relief realised in Bic ballpoint. It reads: "Hi Jim! At last – a Mark 700 album! Everything takes so long… Sean." Behind the casually scrawled words lie depths of record company frustration that I (the recipient of only the beautiful finished product) can merely attempt to imagine. Sean has been sending me records since the very first issue of Robots.. in 1997 and Mark 700’s Domestic Electric Disco was one of the earliest singles to wing its way Eastwards from Leicester. FPOP 5 was a gorgeous post-shoegazing romp. Sean was evangelical about it. Five years, and who knows what kind of tribulations, later FPOP 35 is 11 slugs of artfully-crafted dreampop. Sean is relieved. And delighted. And he should be. Three tracks are at the core of the album and at the core of Mark 700’s sound: Space Country, Cmonby and Dreaming On: space pop and a love of Country music; Spaceman 3 and extra melody; spacious, classic, gentle guitar songs. For those of you who need more, the press sheet provides an appropriate list of inspirations: Pavement, Big Star and Spiritualised.

Bassman, Music For Modern Living (Acid Ray) CDR

Pete Bassman, of Spaceman 3 and latterly Alphastone, sets his controls for the heart a distant sun and wastes no time in small-talk with Ground Control before blasting off. Music For Modern Living is three chunks of bass-heavy synthetic grooves programmed by a man with a keen ear for melody and momentum. Look out for a full album shortly.

Maladroit, Death to False Metal (Powerviolence) CD

The opener, Black Chalice, wastes no time in subjecting the Velvets to a horrendous beating. The beats in question are hard, raw, distorted and very, very angry. The Velvets soon concede defeat and fall out of the mix, leaving you and me to be badly mauled in their place. Death to False Metal is more copyright-indifference from the land that brought us Britany Boobies on the recent System Corrupt ( compilation, Australia. Perhaps it’s being upside down all the time that makes them this way, I don’t know, but something’s causing a wave of records that splatter other people’s tunes across plastic like vomit on the pavement outside every cheesy local nightclub at 3am on Satuday. Fuckin great.

Ari Russo, International Daylight (16rpm) CD

New York, 2002. Everyone’s talking about The Strokes. False. London, 2002. The NME are talking about The Strokes. True. Back to New York, 2002. Everyone’s talking too fast and too much. Fact. New York, 2002. Ari Russo is taking a break from the mouthy maelstrom by making electro so calming you’d be forgiven for thinking it came with free Ovaltine. Despite sharing its tricky beats and occasionally mad steer basslines, the pseudo-random blip melodies and gossamer washes make this the opposite of jump-up – jump-down, perhaps? Whatever, it’s lovely.

Boom Bip and Doseone, Circle (Leaf) CD

Circle is about right. Any section of a circle’s perimeter, viewed from close enough, looks straight. Zoom out though and.. boom! (bip) Different shape. What looked like a line heading in two different directions and with, presumably, a beginning and an end, turns into an infinite loop, a non-stop trip with no way out. Take a few seconds from anywhere on this record and you’d think it was just a hip hop album. Take anything more than a few seconds and you’d realise you’re in the middle of a non-stop trip. Boom Bip and Doseone (I’m pronouncing it Doh-see-oh-nee, it brings out the Italian in me) are blipvert maniacs, multi-threaded, short attention sp.., noise addicts, beatfreatks, freaks, phreaks, genii and more. Circle is the kitchen sink of leftfield hip hop, it’s got all the balls, excitement and invention that the mainstream rap world lost long, long ago. You won’t hear tedious posse cuts on this record. You will hear fuck knows what shoved into a Moulinex and chunked while two loonies twist words around the chopped up mess like spaghetti on a fork.

Moon, Back to the Stars? CDR

Moon keep sending me half-finished albums. I can’t tell. I mean, I can tell they’re sending me albums, I just can’t tell they’re half finished. This one is no exception. Another product of their ongoing collaboration with Burning Emptiness main man, DDN (they produce hours of music, he edits it down) it pits monolithic drone against a lockgroove riff and space film samples. It drags torn sheets of silence over a shifting whisper of hum. It sounds like a loud fly buzzing around a string quartet warm-up. It somehow makes electro from acoustic guitars. It even makes long days at work bearable. Del Nista, Chemin de Saint Marc, Mauran, 13130 Berre L’Etang, France

Moloch, Hit By Prepared For A (Thin Genius) CDR

Syntax perverse, semantics unresolved – it goes for the music as much as the title of Moloch’s album. With the same equipment, Moloch could make a Travis album, a Coldplay album or an Oasis album, tediously lingua franca all. Instead, he’s gone the route of the backwoods linguist, appropriating the pidgin parameters of The Fall, the dialectal diversions of Pavement and the creative creole of everyone whoever sang through a distortion pedal while their mate drummed on kitchen pots and a passing stranger who’d never ever seen a bass guitar laid down some b-lines. PO Box 1229, Springfield TN 37172, USA

Bouvier CDR

It’s like Kylie said: I can’t get Bou out of my head. It’s like I said last time: folk-rock. But there’s so many connotations this just doesn’t do them enough justice – or any favours. Without sounding at all like them, Bouvier attempt to contain the violent tensions of Silverfish inside a San Francisco 60s straightjacket. It works for a while, until a tendril of aggression shoots out of an unexpected gap in the restraints and the band switch into rock, hard. Orderlies leap in, the uprising is quelled and we’re back to sweet, sweet sounds (Misty Mountain Shop). The addition of a brass section gives them the same kind of edge that Pickled Egg’s Big Eyes have been sharpening for a while (Gossip) and the studio version of Don’t Look Now is even more Easy Rider than the live recording on the last demo.

The Iinviisiibles, Do Paranoia Don’t (Pop Gun) CDS

The title cut is not a patch on the last single but Showroom Dummy and Pharmacist, recorded live, are the reasons you should check this out if you’ve ever been mesmerised by Penthouse, Gold Blade, Dream City Film Club or any one of their numerous American relations. PO Box 709, London, SW19 1JY

Various, Gringo Rock Volume 1 (Gringo) CD

You know Gringo by now – they like right-turn guitar lines, they like stop-start, they like it when the singer shouts something deep yet unintelligible, they like dub bass and drums that beat to an erratic pulse. They like to put their money where their mouth is, they like to put their bands in a position to make the records they want to make, they like to make sure you and I get a good deal when we buy those records and they like it, most of all, when you and I like it. And I like it. You’ll have gathered by now that it’s mostly a post-rock kind of party, and it’s mostly about doing it for the right reasons. Hirameka Hi-Fi rock hard; I Am Spartacus rock soft; Clambake are more primal and punky than studiously intense; Bilge Pump sound like a band in one of those new Dyson washing machines that spin two ways at once; S Process’s Ini Ini is a post-punk triumph, all instruments on rhythm duty, staccato and breathtakingly insular; So Clear Productions are the joker in the pack, looping a breakbeat and scattering atmosphere on top to give Colchester Bronx? Also features: Eska, San Lorenzo, Empire Builder, Electro Group, Polaris and Reynolds (who were excellent live the other week, incidentally).

Philip Gayle, Keguribap/ Solo Live/ Hud Pes/ pnbna (all Yabyum) all CD

I’ve got to be honest, I find these four albums (3 solo, Hud Pes with Richard Cholakian) exceptionally hit and miss. To the untutored ear it’s little more than a man having problems tuning a variety of guitars, mandolins and banjos until, all of a sudden, BLAM! Nothing discernably different from tracks either side of it, something clicks and there’s magic in the turbulent strumming and plucking. Hud Pes adds percussion and the sounds of real life going on around the improvisation. It’s the most accessible of the four, but still not for those seeking an instant return on their investment. PO Box 70012, Houston, Texas 77270 USA

Some of these reviews appeared in various forms in Careless Talk Costs Lives.

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