Music Reviews

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Artist: Boyd Rice & Frank Tovey
Title: Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing
Format: CD
Label: Mute Records (@)
Rated: *****
Listening to the 12 Excerpts off of Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing is like walking through an empty factory, whose machines are running themselves.

All the sounds from this record were compiled from non-musical sources: firehoses, gas jets, scraping floors, et al. and then fastidiously assembled into an industrial bricolage. Like a Cornell box sprung to life, or The Brothers Quay if they decided to make musique concrete, these 'excerpts' (as all the songs on this record are titled), are predominantly rhythmic, with occasional smatterings of gelatinous melodies that bring to mind early industrial stalwarts like Coil, Throbbing Gristle, perhaps Einsturzende Neubauten.

The beauty of this records is that its surprisingly listenable by Boyd's standards, featuring less of the stainless steel feedback heard on records like Music for Iron Youth . At times its downright danceable, and the melodic tracks might fit in well at retro Goth nights the world over. Another benefit of taking the time to listen to this record, and similar kinds of music, is how to retrains yr ear, how you listen to the world around you. Its like Bjork's character in Dancer in the Dark creating industrial musicals to get through the monotonous grind of her depressing life.

Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing is like a soundtrack, also. 12 tracks, 60 minutes of pounding, thudding, churning; gears springing, alarms sounding. Things are going on, but this movie has no characters, and no plot. Just a single camera, zooming through the dusty corridors of these two misanthropes' minds.

Those that are curious about early industrial and noise music might do well to start here. But a word of caution: you may come to ENJOY sounds like these, and yr friends may find you, in the middle of the night, standing in the darkened street, listening to a car alarm going off, and drooling like an imbecile.

Artist: Henrik Munkeby Norstebo (@)
Title: Solo
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
It's quite difficult (and somewhat reckless) to propose a solo record on trombone, especially as nowadays this exceptional member of the big family of wind instruments is prominently thought as part of a combo or an orchestra and not so really suitable for a solo performance, but this release by the young Norwegian improvisational trombonist Henrik Munkeby Norstebo, an up-and-coming star of the scene in my opinion, goes beyond any dictates coming from musical trends, marketing pithy sayings or even social prejudices as some listeners joke on trombone considering it a musical instrument for beggars (it seems incredible but I've heard similar oddities even by orchestral directors...). His "Solo" is not a conceptual release at all, but it's quite belittling regarding it as a mere set of exercises as you can attest by listening to the bizarre performative paths explored by this guy: if the first piece could feed that above-sketched stereotyped vision so that his phrases and those nice glissatos could evoke some kind of discharged soldier who embraced Dixieland jazz while reminding the feeling of loneliness while on frontline even if this opener together with the final track is maybe the warmest and most melodious moment of the whole recording, the second track is the first sample where tradional performative techniques of trombone are intertwined with funny and somewhat bizarre vocal experiments and incredible embouchure so that Henrik looks translating into trombone tones the gruff muttering of some angry man after he's been awaken by some irritating noise. There are many moments when Henrik intertwines vocal sketches with the vice of trombone such in the ninth track where his vocalizations looks like a mixture of puffing, mumbling and strangling and in the fourth one where he reminds some cartoons such as Pingu or The Line's choleric reactions against its drawer when meeting a broken line! And there are moments when Henrik plays with glissando, trills and vibrational effects on trombone in a skillful way. Highly enjoyable and nostalgia-tinged music, born from a somewhat dermic relation between musician and instrument.
Jan 30 2012
Artist: Grandchaos (@)
Title: Refuge
Format: CD
Label: Urgence Disk (@)
Rated: *****
Grandchaos is the solo project of Ivanovitch Tcheleskov, already known for his other band Idlo. This album features basically only remixes plus a new version of "Ultra dark day" off their previous "Open source" album. The title-track appears with five different versions and, together with the other remixes, will appear in its original version on the upcoming "Rumours of my life" album. Usually remixes are released at the same time or after the "official" versions, but why not changing a bit. Hailing from Belgium and sounding definitely Belgian, though remixed, this is Grandchaos. Expect some old sounding EBM, pounding bass-lines, synth layers and deep darkened vocals. There are some futurepop moments, like "A new replica" (Grandchaos vs Operation of the Sun), the last and fastest track. As for me, I prefer the old EBM parts, but it's hard to judge a remix album, anyway, it makes me want to hear the "official" new one, that's a good side effect! and, by the way, I'm actually spinning a lot the Bak XIII remix of "A lot of pain".
Artist: Ramleh/Libertarian Recordings (@)
Title: The Return of Slavery/Slaughter at Random
Format: 12"
Label: Broken Flag (@)
Rated: *****
The world turns. Backwards. Why return to the scene of past failure. Lack of new ideas. Lack of imagination forces grasphing at straws. But success can be attained through continuation of discontinued partial success. It is not wrong to look to the past. It is only wrong to mis-read it and to recreate disaster. Less is now permissable. More work is needed to retain what is still left. Celebrate and promote that which remains in order to
built further towards the heights once attained. Music need not be brutal at all times. Sublety also has it's place but we must have originality. It is said that in this day and age nothing is original. Fuck that. It is the view of those resigned to failure whose brains are incapable of anything but recycled garbage. Let the world progress one more. Soon. -The World Turns, Ramleh Mission Statement

A Return to Slavery/Slaughter at Random was the second release from the influential label Broken Flag, pivotal in creating the Power Noise genre in the UK. It was released in 1983, and was a split between Ramleh and Libertarian Recordings, which was a solo outing for Philip Best, who would later go on to be in Consumer Electronics and Whitehouse. This enclave of artists, collective, would re-define industrial music, creating an aesthetic of groddy, mono-chromatic sleeve design and lyrics focused on taboo subjects like serial killers, rape, and genocide. They created the mold for the modern noise-dude, and as such, have done it better than the nearly 3 decades of facsimiles.

The four cuts from Ramley, later compiled on the Awake! box set, are primarily composed of tectonic bass rumble, high-frequency oscillators, field recordings from what sound like Nazi rallies but are actually, upon closer examination, recordings of british politicians, and Gary Mundy, the mastermind of Broken Flag, barking martially. It proved to be an almost eerie simulacrum of my burgeoning sinus infection, with the bass rumble being the blood rushing behind my temples and the sine waves being the pressure behind my eyeballs.

The Libertarian Recordings side, one long track, clocking in at 23 minutes, is entirely instrumental, and sounds like the firebombing of Dresden. Soupy, flanged phased sounds careen across the stereo field, and the whitewash of white noise violence makes for some interesting scenery in the mental mirror, and will produce an eerie, blank calm, if played at high volumes.

It is interesting to hear the early days of Power Noise, Industrial Music in general, before it had become stylized and codified. The people making it were genuine misanthropes, making art for themselves and their group of like-minded cohorts. It was not about fitting in. In case you hadn't noticed, or thought otherwise, the urge to fill a room with paint-peeling static is anti-social behavior. It was not originally intended to win friends and influence people, and making unfriendly music to gain popularity has always struck me as an oxymoron.

Like the mission statement said, quoted at the beginning, it is possible to learn from the past. The concept behind The Return To Slavery was talking about underground music becoming a parody of itself, having its fangs ripped out of its skull, and in the culture in general moving towards the moral majority and repression, from the hedonistic bacchanalia of the '70s. Its not too late to re-write the past, and to create a present that we can live in.
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Title: The Exaltics Meets Gosub
Format: 12"
Label: Solar One Music
Rated: *****
The Exaltics meets Gosub is the first of a series of split 12"s that will find The Exaltics meeting cool names of the electro scene. The first to celebrate this series is the Miami producer Shade T. Scott, actually active under the monikers of Gosub and Dcast Dynamics. Anyway. A Side contains two The Exaltics tracks: "My Language" and "I.M.O.E.H.". After the last year EP "They Arrive" released by Clone, which contained six tracks that were exploring the experimental side of Robert's music, on this release, he bring to the attention of his fans two electro paced mid tempos which mix ambient pads to a more complex and fast rhythmical structure. Fast bass lines alternates ice keys and warm pads creating a nice mix that sounds alienated but also confortable. Side B contains two new Gosub tracks "Plug In" and "You Can't Escape The Present". I loved so much Shade's album "Watchers From The Black Universe" and "Plug In" is bringing me back to those atmospheres thanks to the classic Gosub's low slung bass lines and that Miami electro flavor. On this one vocally he recalls me also a little Egyptian Lover but a kind of dark one. The second track is a nice electro melodic vocal jam which seems to have been recorded underwater. Do sea-monkeys took control of his studio? Funny one indeed. This is another cool Solar One release and now I'm curious to know who'll be the next The Exaltics' guest...
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