Category Archives: Releases 2013

Jar Moff: Financial Glam

Jar_Moff_Financial_Glam_PAN_Bill_Kouligas

Jar Moff: Financial Glam
Pan (2013)

I loved Commercial Mouth, Jar Moff’s first release on PAN. We chatted about it on The Antidote where David wasn’t so keen, but goddam I think it’s a fun record. Financial Glam is even better and I can’t believe it’s taken me a full year to write about it.

Greek born Jar Moff trades in a style of abstract ‘sampledalica’ championed by the likes of John Weise, but his aesthetic also shares a musicality with artists like Jason Hammer. Composition is significant to Jar Moff, and the result is a sound collage that feels smooth and purposeful, never disparate. The point isn’t to come up with shocking juxtapositions. Instead he arranges unusual combinations of sound into dynamic shapes that morph around eachother. This record feels like it has strong narrative, and based on the title it’s easy view the work as a response to the economic desolation of his homeland.

Financial Glam lifts off with a gentle, electronic pulse like a subdued Wolf Eyes jam. Swathes of gnarled synths and strings begin eating away at the perimeter. Electronic clatter slowly takes over and we’re off on a Willy Wonka ride into a sonic jungle. Jar Moff’s knack for composition is what keeps this melting pot of samples from blending into a muddy, brown soup. He builds a forward momentum rather than slamming you with whiplash inducing dramatic turns. Moff’s collection of sounds rise and fall in smooth complexity; often dischordant but never jarring.

In fact, the over all effect is similar to a free jazz improvisation, potentially enhanced by Moff’s tendency toward fractured saxaphones and other reed-fuelled debris. Combined, all the disparate elements feel like part of a greater whole, and the snippets of ‘real’ instruments breathe life into what could easily be an electronic shit-sammy (at times, you can literally hear the muscians taking a breath before firing off a brass blast).

The B side is a more musical trip. A damaged guitar groans in despair over an off kilter drum beat, while an arrangement of out-of-key synths hovers around in the background. Eventually Moff introduces a more desolate arrangement of samples including irrationally triggered drum pads, something that sounds like a hammer drill, an annoying buzz, cheap feedback, spastic high hats and other musique concrete effects. hold on to your hats, kids.

This record should be a stomach churning, motion sick trip, but Financial Glam never feels like a road to nowehere. Everyone should take this ride.

Roly Porter: Life Cycle Of A Massive Star

Roly Porter_Lifecycle of a Massive StarRoly Porter: Lifecycle of a Massive Star
Subtext (2013)

This year I’ve listened to more great music than I’ve been able to write or think about.  Perhaps it’s my involvement in the Antidote Podcast, perhaps 2013 has been a great year for weirdo music, more likely it’s a combination of both. This Roly Porter record is one of those gems that almost slipped me by.

It starts off slowly, rising from the murk in a swirl of synths. It’s like the soundtrack to a thousand alien spacecraft descending on earth while its population stands mesmerised in disbelief. From there we wander through fragments of deconstructed Jungle and Rave references, calling to mind Lee Gamble’s sonic experiments. Rhythm is eschewed for ambience penetrated by blasts of noise and sonic shrapnel. The entire monster moves at the pace of Doom but the feeling is one of meloncholic catharsis rather than crushing defeat.

If there’s a noise scene at the moment it’s dug it’s way back underground (probably hibernating for a revival helmed by a new cast of misfits), and instead we get artists like Porter applying the aesthetics of noise to an electronic world with closer ties to rave culture and chill out rooms. Pete Swanson, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement and a large chunk of Pan’s amazing catalogue are pursuing similar interests. Roly Porter is another fantastic example of this shift. Don’t let Life Cycle Of A Massive Star pass you by.

Rashad Becker: Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I

Rashad BeckerRashad Becker: Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I
Pan (2013)

Over on The Antidote Podcast, Dave and I have recently found ourselves pondering the definition of Noise, spurred on by a mesmerising record by icelandic Sound Artist Bjarni Gunnarsson. This has coincided with a book I’m reading at the moment called Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation which suggests that Noise music as a genre is defined by loud, relentless and ‘harsh’ slabs of sound.

I’m not sure I agree, because the first thing anyone who isn’t familiar with this sort of ‘music’ would think upon hearing Rashad Becker’s positively weird record, is that it was noise. And you know what? They’d be right. IT might not be harsh or loud but there is nothing recognisable on Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I. It’s synthetic and bizarrely composed. There’s nothing to sink your teeth into except a fluctuating molasses of micro tones. Melody? Natch. Rhythm? Depends how many drugs you’ve consumed. Is it loud and relentless? Nope, but it’s definitely noise.

Imagine the cut n’ paste nature of John Weise, but slowed wayyyy down and based on non-sensical sounds rather than field recordings and samples. Throw in a pinch of the gloopy bleeps favoured by the likes of Black Dice and you’ll get a vague idea of the soup that Rashad Becker has cooked here. When I listen to this record I find myself thinking of soft, soapy bubbles floating around and then quietly bursting. Every track on this record is composed from little bubbles of sound, each one individually pulling itself free from the whole and spinning off into it’s own orbit where Rashad manipulates them until they disintegrate. Sometimes they fizz out into black holes of delay; sometimes they pop and splutter into nothingness; sometimes they gently fade away…..

Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I isn’t an easy listen. It’s up there with the truly abstract Rene Hell record also released on Pan this year. But Becker’s expertise as a sound engineer makes this a nerdgasmic experience for fans of the experimental. Since the late nineties, Becker has developed a fine reputation as a recording engineer, having racked up credits on something like 1200 Electronic, Dance and Experimental records. His experience shines through on Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I; every individual sound is unbelievably crisp and clear, existing in its own little dimension. Even the space between each ‘note’ shines in a way that only a professional can master. The precision adds to the curious nature of this strange little record without dipping into academia. Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I might not be loud but it’s definitely not ambient. It might not be harsh, but it’s definitely Noise. A beautiful noise.

Body/Head: Coming Apart

Kim Gordon-Body-Head-Coming-Apart1

Body / Head: Coming Apart
Matador (2013)

I’ll try to talk about this record without going into some sort of sentimental Sonic Youth meltdown.

I was nervous about this Coming Apart. The hype was intense. And I treated it with great scepticism at first, almost like I didn’t want to believe it could be  decent. And yet I listened to Coming Apart twice in a row today. Not because I felt like I had too so I could write about it, but because it’s actually quite good. Oh yes, it’s a challenge and it’s unlikely that you’re going to succumb to its charms on the first listen. Coming Apart is too sparse and aimless for any of that. But like all truly great music persistence is key.

Kim Gordon and Bill Nace serenade each other through improvised guitar work. They complement each other beautifully, one ratcheting up murky soundscapes while the other plays snaking melodies that create a misty atmosphere that’s difficult to see through, weightless and floating around all stoned and beautiful. The fact the guitars were recorded analogue style – Kim comes out one speaker while Bill haunts the other – adds to the disorienting nature of proceedings. When someone stops doodling, the audio world suddenly falls lopsided and for a second you’ll wonder if your headphones/speakers are on the fritz. I love that about Coming Apart, that it’s so human sounding and raw. There’s a lot of similarities between this and Sonic Youth’s SYR releases (dammit, how can you NOT reference that band?). Partly in the (seemingly) unedited and live sound but more so in the aimless guitar noodling, the lack of resolution and if that’s not your cup o’ tea than I suggest you look elsewhere for kicks. But me, I love this sort of stuff.

The most striking thing about Coming Apart is Kim’s vocals, in particular the honesty of her lyrics. She whispers, croons, scowls, yelps, yells and even barks about mistresses, actresses, murderesses and girls pissing like dogs to mark their territory. It’s nothing new for Gordon to sing about the Femme Fatale  but this time her lead characters aren’t using their sexual prowess to fuck over white, male, corporate America or being subjected to the clammy gaze of a lascivious male audience. This time her female characters are sinister, predatory, praying mantis-like and conniving. I’m amazed that she’s allowed her personal life to shine through like this, but to be honest it’s fucking refreshing and she sounds more confronting and powerful than she has in years.

Despite Gordon’s abrasive (at times) vocal performance, Coming Apart is a very dreamy experience. It’s a complex maze to get lost in, largely because it demands your attention. there’s no dipping into and out of this record. You’re either in it for the long haul or you’re not. People with short attention spans should move the back of the line. Everyone else, have some patience and enjoy.

Mohammad: Som Sakrifis

Mohammad_Som SakrifisMohammad: Som Sakrifis
Pan (2013)

On the other end of the Cello spectrum to Okkyung Lee, is this stellar release on everyone’s favorite label right now, Pan. Mohammad is comprised of three Greek artists Nikos Veliotis, Costantino Kiriakos, and ILIOS. I know of ILIOS through his Antifrost label but can’t say I’m familiar with the other two guys, however that may change.

What we have here is a brilliant example of the power of drone, illustrated by the haunting, deep beauty of Cello and Contra Bass. Where Okkyhung Lee attacks her instrument, Veliotis and Kiriakos coax long and considered notes from their muse while ILIOS takes a backseat, colouring the background with skittery electronics.

The Cello is the perfect drone instrument. In many ways, Som Sakrifis is like an acoustic Sunn O))) trip, but darker and more melancholic (don’t ask me how this can be darker than Sunn O))), but it is). Som Sakrifis is mournful music for solo listening at night, with the lights off.

My favorite moments are when Veliotis and Kiriakos violently and suddenly shift notes, their fingers and bows scraping against the strings like they’re actually tearing sound out of their instruments. The hairs stand up on the back of my neck every time. There’s also great beauty in the way they often play in harmony, each musician following their own narrative, settling on the same note for a few beats and then sliding tones and semi tones apart which creates a restless energy.

When this sort of music is done right the effect is completely immersive and deeply personal. It’s no coincidence that drone forms the basis of various religious ‘musics’; it can be a spiritual experience. Anyone with even the remotest interest in drone and minimalist music needs to check this record out. In a genre filled with Souncloud and Bandcamp mediocrity, Mohammad are the real deal.

Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus

Fuck Buttons Slow FocusFuck Buttons: Slow Focus
ATP Recordings (2013)

It’s funny how time can change your outlook on a record. Sometimes it’s circumstance, sometimes it’s the quality of the music itself but there are occasions when a record you love loses its shine or an album you forget about suddenly becomes mind-blowing. In the case of Tarot Sport, Fuck Button’s last full length release, I was totally into it for a while but eventually its candy coloured glow became sickeningly sweet and I lost interest.

So I was a little sceptical about the arrival of Slow Focus. But after hearing good things about it from a number of people I gave it a crack and was pleasantly surprised. The boys have done themselves a service by pushing aside the techno flourishes and replacing them with a grimier, dubbier palette. This isn’t quite bass music, but the focus is on deep grooves and lolling rhythms, densely layered drones highlighted by intricate melodies and spidery wavelengths of noise.

Perhaps best of all, the tracks on Slow Focus evolve and mutate as they play out, often finishing somewhere completely different to where they kicked off from. In the past Fuck Buttons have happy to ride out a concept for 10 minutes,  using repetition to lure the listener into a zen-like state. On Slow Focus, they’ve matured enough to take us on a series of psychedelic journeys into swirling miasma of distortion. The bombast of Tarot Sport has been paired back to reveal more of the experimental expeditions that caused so many of us to fall in love with Fuck Buttons in the first place.

I’ve had this record for quite a while now, and so far I’m still listening to it. I’m still interested and excited by it. Will I still feel this way in a year’s time? Who knows. For now, Slow Focus is a fun ride and I’m totally psyched about seeing them play again at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in October.

Kareem: Porto Ronco

Kareem Porto Ronco DroneKareem: Porto Ronco
The Death of Rave (2013)

It begins by oozing out of your speakers, and gently simmering in a murky puddle. Bubbles of radio miasma drift off and burst quietly in the shadows. The atmosphere is warm but airless and desperate. A series of electronic groans takes over and leads us towards a beautiful Kevin Drumm style drone, power lines crackle in the distance while feedback rings in and out of consciousness. The drone becomes more menacing, discordant, rattling. It mutates through crushing distortion, a static-y hum and detuned television reception before quietly drifting away on a single, ringing note.

This record is fucking amazing. Seriously. Patrick Stottrop, aka Kareem has been around since the 90s making spooky hip hop riddims and damaged industrial techno but it’s this drastic change of direction that’s grabbed my attention. Apparently inspired by a deceased relative and named after small European town where his grandfather lived, Porto Ronco is void of rhythm but overflows with ambience. It’s a unique record but if you think of Mike Shiflet, maybe a little of Ben Frost and the least menacing moments of Haxan Cloak you’re somewhere in the same shadow as Kareem on Porto Ronco.

I’ve been listening to the 45 minute mp3 version of Porto Ronco, but there’s also an edited, 30 minute version available on vinyl. Would this shorter, broken up version lose its effect? I don’t know, maybe. You can pick up both for the one price on Boomkat. Do yourself a favour.