Thursday, February 25, 2021
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Music Reviews

Psyclones: Tape Music 1980-1984

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Artist: Psyclones
Title: Tape Music 1980-1984
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Notte Brigante (@)

As long as I remember Californian duo Psyclones - Brian Ladd and Julie Frith - where rooted fiercely in the American underground scene with their music and running their own (still ongoing) Ladd-Frith label. Collaborating with many other artists and labels in the wide fields of experimental music there was literally no chance in the 80's to miss them completely as you either had a track on a compilation or a release they where involved in if you where into the post experimental diy cassette scene interested at all. With Blackhouse Brian found even more attention due to the projects more handsome straight direction of early Industrial / Dark Ambient.

This compilation, lovingly curated by NB and mastered by Brian Ladd himself dives into the first Cassette Only albums & concentrates on the less industrial post punk freedom which was always a strong element in the Psyclones work. Particularly this reminds me even of American New Wave heroes Talking Heads or DEVO combined with the charm of the French Duo X-Ray Pop or the Belgian weirdness of Bene Gesserit.

There is a playfulness with all instruments at hand and an urge to find new ways in-midst the possibilities, sometimes leaned on proper song structures with dub techniques, vocals are aided by effects, detuned guitars, bass, early beatboxes, frequency modulations and a Laissez-faire attitude make up for an pleasant listening, often even a bit dada-esque.
Overall this compilation works more as a soundtrack "balancing between icy wave coolness and nonchalant neon funk. Insane Music for sane people, smokers, rain lovers, midnight movers and all those cats, that can’t cope with the pre-written consumer life reality" (Quote from Press Info, I just had to cite it).

My personal favourites are "Beetween Space", a moody outro of Side 1 with ambient leanings, loads of echo upon early keyboard sounds and "News Of The World", a track so minimal it's close to a capella with double layered vocals pushing the lyrics for once to the front.

The LP will be published alongside the full download in early March in an edition of 300 copies, pre-ordering is possible.

Integral Bread: Collage EP

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Artist: Integral Bread
Title: Collage EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Univack
Good progressive house is sometimes like a smooth road- when the quality is good, the journey is so smooth that you don’t even think about it. And that’s the approach taken on the “Collage” EP, a collection of three original tracks and two remixes, all of them steady seven-minute-ish instrumental progressive tracks full of the usual ingredients- steady soft kicks, even softer single-note synthbass, gentle melody loops, slow risers and so on. It’s a familiar set-up, but in this genre that’s not a bad thing.

“The Blacksmith” uses a spoken single-word sample in lieu of a cymbal sound to good success. The title track “Collage” has just a hint more purposefulness to it, and ominousness in the bass, but is still ultimately rather sweet. The track already has such a classic Bedrock feel to it that it seems something of a no-brainer to draft in the legendary Nick Muir for a remix of it, but it’s the Nick Muir mix that deviates from the tone the most, which isn’t saying much, thanks to rockier drums, a more driving, almost Moroder-ish synth line and a remarkably glam, almost over-the-top breakdown.

The unique detail in the fairly bubbly “Tahiche” is a slight off-step in the kick drum on the last bar of each phrase, which may sound tiny but in an EP defined by straight 4-4, it could qualify as the EP’s only surprise element. The Morttagua remix dwells more on the string pads and feels a little more cinematic.

The promo blurb for this release suggests that this is a genre mash-up mixing techno, trance, and deep house, and that’s not untrue, but it does it by sitting cross-legged and steady right in the middle of them, rather than crashing any of their more disparate sounds together. But if rock bands are allowed to stick to the boring guitars, bass and drums formula for so long, why shouldn’t progressive house get the same liberty? If high quality releases like this keep coming, then there’s absolutely no reason why not.

Camecrude: Enclave II-II

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Artist: Camecrude
Title: Enclave II-II
Format: CDx2 (double CD)
Label: Cioran Records (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Here comes the Hurdy Gurdy Man man again and he's not singing songs of love...the industrial noise hurdy gurdy man that is, Valentin Laborde under his project name Camecrude. 'Enclave II-II' could be construed as a continuation of his previous 'Enclave I' (2018) which I reviewed positively back then, and though there are some similarities, 'Enclave II-II' takes things to another level entirely. First, this is a double album (2 CD) and the intensity has been cranked up a few notches, not that 'Enclave I' was lacking much in the brutal noise department. It also does not have as much spoken word (dialogue) as the first, but still retains a lot of vocal chant, but a bit different this time around. Camecrude's modus operandi is largely the same; voices, hurdy gurdy, Lyra-8, industrial and nature recordings. Some additional percussion on a couple of tracks is by Clément Joseph-Alexandre & Laurent Hayet (Ginkgotuk), as well as additional voices and lyrics by Malou Rivoallan, and Stase:Orgone. Inspired by books like "La Luxure et la Mort" from Albert Caraco, "Précis de Décomposition" by Emil Cioran or "Le Monde comme conscience et comme rien" by Ladislav Klima, this pessimistic double album is divided into two sides, one first part with extended tracks for the fall and the drama of conscience— another side with dark old sorcery meditations around insomnias and negative utilitarianism.

It all begins on Disc 1 with "Les Maux : Minja Los Que Non Te Mingen," which takes a couple of minute to rev up, but when it does. It’s like some infernal washing machine filled with cement blocks while some Outer Gods cultist high priest chants over it. That chant must get answered because it isn't long before the mad pipes of Azathoth play an insane tune. Yep, this is the heralding of ultimate chaos, and Lovecraftian devotees should love it, although there is nary a mention of good old Howard Phillips or the Cthulhu Mythos here. If this track isn't enough to scarce the absolute shit out of you, perhaps "Les Sorts : A La Tèrra Volatz" might do the trick. This is intense black ritual with menacing sub-bass and an assortment of sonic effluvia that definitely gives the impression of being led toward your chains! When the additional percussion kicks in, you can just picture the dancing writhing cultists with knives stops...then begins again with renewed fervor. Of course, you can't make out the chanted words (likely in French, but who knows what blasphemous language it might be), but there is no doubt of malevolent intent. From this point (9 minutes in) it only get more frenzied and intense, ferociously building to an outrageously wild climax, descending into chittering madness. Following that, a much needed respite titled "Interlude," but at 3:48 it doesn't last long. Before you know it you're in "La Mort : Précis de Décomposition" which starts off sounding like a John Cale experimental viola drone piece, but you know that it's the hurdy gurdy. There's a strong low rumbling undercurrent to support it as it drones on for a good long time while wordless voices urge it along. This is quite a noisy piece that only gets noisier for a spell. At about 11:27 it changes into something less brutal and a little more musical, yet still dronish. Still, there is a sense of unholy anguish here.

Disc 2 - "Anathème" begins with the incessant buzzing of bees (the hive mind?), a tone as annoying as an unattended teakettle whistle, an ominous bass and obscured and processed low voices before launching into the fearfully chilling musical meat of the track which blossoms into a full-fledged bouquet of the flowers of evil, infernal voices and other musical maladies to boot. I should point out that that there are more tracks (9) on this disc than the first, and most are of shorter duration than most of the tracks on disc 1. Harrowing voices are at the forefront of "Rituel d'Avortement" with numerous gyrations and acrobatics over a rich industrial background. "La Jambe Crue" has the sound of a scratchy old vinyl record and something like a slow moving freight train before the real percussion picks up the rhythm, eventually turning a bit militant. I realize now that I'm spending much too much time trying to describe the sound as opposed to interpreting it. Suffice to say the rest of the album is chock full of fire and brimstone malevolent rancor exhibited in a variety of different dark ambient and brutal noise schemes, as well as some unexpected surprises (such as Malou Rivoallan's vocals on "Sauge Lente") and strange musicality. 'Enclave II-II' stuns and engages on every level, pushing the boundaries of the artistic possibilities in the power noise genre merged with ritualistic dark ambient. Epic - A masterwork; something that will set the standard for years to come.

With packaging similar to 'Enclave I,' this limited edition (199 copies only) is a double CD that comes in a handmade black woodbox, hand polished and hand design, Including 2 art prints, a ritual booklet of 8 pages and antinatalist & sorcery artefacts. 26 Euros or so, but worth it, or you can go cheap with digital download for 12.

A Prayer For The Worst: Lullabies For Babies

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Artist: A Prayer For The Worst
Title: Lullabies For Babies
Format: CD & 12" & Download
Label: Lonely Demon Records (@)

Herr B worked several years on his solo project debut, at first as 'Children Of God' before he settled on A Prayer For The Worst. He finally accomplished it's debut due to last years spring lockdown and it got lovingly mastered by Friedemann Kootz who started to make himself a name in industrial / experimental / minimimal circles. Otherwise this is a complete solo work - even the design.
The soft pink artwork paired with an mediveal like image showing the revenge of the pigs is a hidden hint on the possibiltiy of everything getting turned upside down.

With "The Awakening" an electro ghoul lures you into this viciously soft journey through darker realms. With the aid of nothing but electronics and vocals a melancholic song cycle unfolds, soothing the listener into a comfortable mellow mood with it's addictive poison spread slowly. Not the darkest black but shades in different guises of grey are the main theme.
Midtempo minimal ballads, not necessarily with vocals, enter the stage one after another. A disillusion goes hand in hand with it, saving 'Lullabies For Babies' from gothic cliches and pushing all these melodramatic sentiments paired with irony and pragmatism into the post electro-punk area although titles like "Funeral March", "A Cry In The Desert", "A Lament" and "Last Breath" call out to a certain existentialistic point of view.
The melodramatic sentiments paired with implied irony and a pragmatic approach reaches a certain positive punk level in the heritage of Virgin Prunes, Fad Gadget, à;GRUMH...,Boris Mikulic a.o., paired with the expertise of someone who actually lived through it all.

Lullabies For Babies is a coherent and enjoyable listening. Many of the 13 compositions are rather short but carefully shaped, the vocals and lyrics are supportive without demanding full attention, the keyboard uses a palette between organ and classic synthesizer sounds in a minimalistic way. A surprising powerful and equally mellow debut fitting with it's subtle melancholy perfect in our times.

This album is one of the few independent productions that actually appears as LP (in soft pink Vinyl), CD (soft pink Digipak) and digital.

The Paradox (Jean-Phi Dary / Jeff Mills): Counter Active

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Artist: The Paradox (Jean-Phi Dary / Jeff Mills)
Title: Counter Active
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Axis Records
Jeff Mills needs no introduction, of course. Jean-Phi Dary is the keyboardist that Jeff Mills and Tony Allen worked with for the Tomorrow Comes The Harvest project. When soundchecking prior to gigs, Mills and Dary would find the most efficient way of setting up would be for the two of them to jam and improvise around grooves to check everything felt balanced. Out of that grew this six track project of real-time spontaneous and only lightly prepared tunes, giving us a block of leisurely, very light techno with an extremely jazzy and improvised, casual feel.

Opener “Super Solid” throws us straight back to balearic 90’s beach party afternoons, chilled yet confident, and sets the tone for an album dominated by piano and Rhodes-style keys that some might find a little on the cheesy side. This will sometimes meander off into pure virtuoso jazz like “Twilight”, while at other times, such as in “Ultraviolet”, the two varying-electro-factor versions of “Residence”, it sticks to narrower melodic ranges and more repeated patterns. Tracks like “The X Factor” (absolutely nothing to do with the TV show) add some more unusual and sci-fi sonic twinkles.

There’s a definite sense of indulgence here, but it’s handled with a nicely understated approach that doesn’t feel like showing off, or leaving the audience behind. Fans of classic Jeff Mills tracks who buy this expecting techno might be a little surprised to get jazz instead, but if you go into this open-minded and in the mood to relax, it’s an indulgence that’s refreshing, the sonic equivalent of aromatherapy and some bath bombs.