Two mixes which will wholly improve your life. Get to it.
A guitar soli mix for Root Strata by Danny Paul Grody. If you can listen to Glenn Jones's 'A Snapshot of Mom, Scotland, 1957' without tearing up, you're a better man than I.
And this 'Winter Mix' by James Ginzburg for The Outer Church. Basic Channel, Susumu Yokota, Paul Jebanasam, Roly Porter? Precisely.
Two mixes which will wholly improve your life. Get to it.
Wasn't even aware of the existence of this until today. It's Dave Pajo, it's an extended improvisation around the old Pete Seeger track. It's good.
We published our best of 2012 over at The Liminal last week - below is my own personal list and previous reviews...
1. Title: Effigy
Effigy was a belly roar of Big American Music – full of chaos and ecstasy, full of joyful clamour. It was a work of excavation, its hands deep in the soil, in the fabric of national memory – the effigies of the title referring to the mounds that rise out of the landscape around Madison, Wisconsin, where the album was recorded live in 2011; it was also a work of mourning, a febrile celebration of the passing of Jack Rose, whose spirit floats like woodsmoke above the record’s rolling expanses. That it managed to explore these themes and avoid po-facedness and over-earnest dramatics is testament to those involved, and those it celebrated.
2. Title: The Union/A Hem of Evening
Artist: Hallock Hill
3. Title: Music for the Quiet Hour
Label: Woe To The Septic Heart
If, as the man says, we are all David Toop now, then somehow Shackleton must be the neurons, or maybe the writing hands. There’s always been something of Toop’s style in Shackleton – the exploratory nature, the episodic open-endedness, the almost propulsive sense of stasis. And Music for the Quiet Hour is the very epitome of all this. On its 5 tracks, Shackleton has somehow stepped through the gaps between the beats and discovered a new Mandelbrotian layer of complexity and calm. He gives each track space to breathe and unfurl to a logical conclusion, unafraid, particularly on Parts 3 & 4, to allow for long passages of inertia. But even these periods of inertia are alive with a kind of crackling creative energy, an energy stirred and kneaded by the calm monologues of Vengeance Tenfold. The other word one could use is ‘shamanic’ – it’s daft and overblown language, of course, but there is something increasingly mantric and psychedelic about the direction Shackleton is heading. He’s one of our most intriguing explorers at present, and Music for the Quiet Hour might just be the best thing he’s done.
4. Title: Kentucky
Label: Pagan Flames
This isn’t nearly enough space to do justice to a record with such scope and heart, but there we are. Kentucky is ostensibly a black metal album, but it takes what are becoming tired tropes and gives them life, utilising the bursting drive of the blast beat and the icy nihilistic barrage for humanistic purposes, to give voice to the long dead. Austin Lunn (the sole member of Panopticon) has always dealt with difficult subjects (the last album, Social Disservices was about the appalling state of the youth care system in the States) but with Kentucky it’s like he’s found his perfect platform. It tells, via 3 long, more metal-based tracks and 5 shorter Appalachian folk and bluegrass workouts, the story of a state and its people’s relationship with the coal mining industry: the effect on the landscape, the horror of the daily work, the vile treatment of workers by the industry, the pitch battles between unions and the big corporations. It features, alongside the naked roar and violence of Lunn’s at times all out war approach to black metal, spoken word passages, field recordings (one particular heart-stopping moment has a 91 year old woman on a picket line declaring “I’m prepared to die, are you?”) and the simple uncanny presence of the volk in songs such as ‘Which Side Are You On’ written by Kentuckian Florence Reece in the wake of harrassment of her union founding husband by police and mining companies. If that sounds like the record might be a mess, then that’s not an unfair assessment – it’s a new juxtaposition of sounds and one that often jars. But it’s so strong on power and emotion that it builds its own deliberate structure around itself. By the 4th or 5th listen it makes perfect sense. A colossal achievement.
5. Title: R.I.P
Label: Honest Jon's
Much of Darren Cunningham’s work to date has been glitchy and cut up, granular and atomistic. Splaszh, especially, had a stuttering quality, sections feeling like mental blips, interrupted neuronal messages. There was also a real sense of flair involved, virtuosity. R.I.P is ostensibly a much calmer affair, with greater areas of space in the fabric of the tracks and a real sense of completeness in form – it ‘feels’ like an album. In an interview with Dazed Digital, Cunningham said “even though music isn’t silence in itself, the actual process of doing it can be silence” and in that strangely contradictory statement is the truth of the album: it does feel as though it’s built from a base of silence, from the ground up as it were. The whole thing is full of this contemplative air, but it’s the later sections that have the greatest poignancy, tracks like ‘Tree of Knowledge’ with its deep waves of sub-bass and gritty cymbal clusters, and ‘N.E.W.’ coming on like a elegiac Ballardian waltz. All in all it’s quite a statement and a complexly emotional album.
6. Title: Cold of Ages
Artist: Ash Borer
Label: Profound Lore
7. Title: Motion Sickness of Time Travel
Artist: Motion Sickness of Time Travel
Label: Editions Mego
Rachel Evans could well be the figurehead for the new profligacy movement – last year alone, as MSOTT, she released 4 albums, 2 EPs and a couple of splits. She was also part of 3 releases with Quiet Evenings and appeared on numerous compilations. That’s a lot of stuff. One thing this kind of release pattern does is belie the notion of an oeuvre – there’s nothing so neat a form to study and ponder. Instead you have something closer to a splayed web the strands of which fly further and further apart. Consequently, you don’t tend to search for coherence, instead you find yourself submitting to the flow, more a passive observer. Which may well be the point, and certainly works as a descriptor for the experience of listening to this massive self-titled album. There’s the best part of 90 minutes of music here, set across 4 tracks, all of 20 minutes or more; and the best practice in terms of listening is to totally surrender yourself to it. There’s an odd element of trust with such a strategy, which is partly borne of a sense of past work, and partly of the process of listening itself, as it soon becomes apparent, notions of profligacy aside, that Evans is totally in control of this. Read more.
8. Title: Sanguine Futures
Artist: High Aura'd
It’s becomingly increasingly difficult to write in any meaningful way about ambient releases, such is both the proliferation of music and by extension, the sheer amount of expended digital text. It’s not an exaggeration to say that some releases have as many purple reviews as there are physical copies available. All of which means, when a record of exceptional quality does arrive you find yourself reaching for higher superlatives or more abstruse adjectives to ecstatically describe the sonic phenomena as they unfold. What this situation does do is force you back to essentials: what, precisely, makes for a good ambient recording? And the answers are fairly simple: appreciation of atmosphere, tone, duration and architecture. And safe to say, High Aura’d (the recording alias of John Kolodij) has absolute mastery of all of these facets. Broadly put Sanguine Futures is elemental ambient music. Yet there is something more than just pretty evocation at work here: Kolodij has a granular approach to his compositions meaning each strata, each seam is carefully crafted, to the point where you can almost feel the bedrock and grasp at the clouds of vapour – these are compositions that invite a kind of habitation. On a track such as ‘Sleep Like the Dead’ there is a geological heft to the outer layers of the drone, and the heartbeat, when it comes, is bulbous and warm. ‘La Chasse-galerie’, is suitably wild, like its subject matter: a wild hunt, roaring high above the trees, peaking in a glorious crescendo, redolent of Yellow Swans at their most ecstatic. Thinking of other antecedents, I keep coming back to the Eno of On Land especially on the long eerie swamp-song of ‘Mercy Brown’ which has, at its heart, the story of an exhumation of a 2-month old corpse, a corpse whose heart still contained blood… Sanguine Futures is full of these kinds of layered readings, readings that double and intensify the already dense sonic material. Stunning stuff.
9. Title: Quarter Turns Over A Living Line
Label: Blackest Ever Black
10. Title: Quite A Way Away
Artist: Gareth Dickson
There’s a plangent ambient languor about Gareth Dickson’s sound, a beguiling simplicity that means the absorption of his tone and meaning is a slow but rewarding process. Quite A Way Away is his third official full length release (following on from Collected Recordings and The Dance) and his first for 12K. It’s been the perfect accompaniment to this early spring, as it has an elemental reverb-laden coldness about it (much like some of Dean McPhee’s work) but gradual listening reveals the overall tone to be one of warmth and inclusiveness. One major influence is Nick Drake in terms of the overall feel – hushed and frail, dextrous and wafted in with a hint of otherness; and then that voice, high and whispered, disappearing from your field of hearing in its top register – but there’s no sense of Dickson paying mere homage: this is too unadorned and naked, too ready to follow twisted finger patterns into beautiful blind alleys. Lyrically, Dickson is fairly obtuse, but the main theme of the album seems to be an irretrievable distance from someone, particularly refracted through the prism of the sea, where an unnamed person is either drowning, or swallowed by a whale (the former in ‘Noon’, the latter in the beautiful closing track, ‘Jonah’). The simplest thing to say with this is that I keep coming back to it. Quite A Way Away is a quiet triumph.
11. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
12. The Botanist - III: Doom in Bloom / Allies Review
13. Charlemagne Palestine & Janek Schaefer - Day of the Demons
14. Om - Advaitic Songs
15. Hildur Guðnadóttir - Leyfðu ljósinu Full review
16. Padang Food Tigers - Ready Country Nimbus Review
17. Laurie Spiegel - The Expanding Universe
18. Lee Gamble - Diversions 1994-1996
19. How to Dress Well - Total Loss
20. IX Tab - Spindle & the Bregnut Tree Review
Label: Self released
This first appeared at The Liminal.
Ore are Sam Underwood and Stuart Estell. They are based in Birmingham. They make intricately composed and cavernously deep doom music. With tubas (a York front-action EEb and a Besson BE983 front-action compensating EEb tuba, respectively). Granolthic is their debut album and it’s quite a thing. The title is pretty instructive in that the accumulated effect of the sounds they produce is crushing and granitic – like being slowly compressed by a throbbing slab of warm stone. And that warmth is key here, because for all of the sheer density and low-end weight of their sound, it always remains human and absorbing – not least because of the presence of so much breath, both implied and actual. This is especially apparent on the opening track ‘Sospan Ddu’ (seemingly named after a Dutch dredger) on which the sharp intakes of breath act like a doubling mechanism of the slow percussive moment of the military drums. ‘Ustvolskaya’ (named for the elusive Russian composer?) is nominally the ‘brightest’ thing here, with both tuba players using higher registers. That said, the track still feels very like an elegy. Closing epic ‘St Michael’ – the longest track at 17mins 22 – is gruelling in its way, and close in places to the doom ethic of Sunn O))). The track suddenly mutates into a harsh bellow around the 14 minute mark, sounding for all the world like someone playing an enraged bull. Which is meant as a total compliment and absolutely left me wanting more. Where the duo goes with this sound is anyone’s guess, but on this evidence it’ll be worth keeping up with.
I was away when he went. Just wanted to acknowledge the passing of a beautiful creature.