Switching to heavier sounds, I know this is tnot the latest album by Boris. But a year has passed since I first heard the track "Korosu" on the compilation I've posted here, and I'm still hooked up on the album. Coming from a Queens of the Stone Age kind of time greatly helped my acceptance of the album. It's stoney, it's heavy, and it's an album with good quality. There wasn't any reviews on the web that I could find, and I'm not musically savvy enough to write one. So no review this time.
As usual with the albums I get, I didn't pay much attention to Yat-Kha until recently, after checking a recent post in Cage Dream. When I did listen to it, I just loved it. This particular album is to me quite good. You find in it covers from Led Zeppelin to Motorhead. And a band who can pull such a different but good version of Orgasmatron, is a good band in my book. For those not familiar with the band, Yat-Kha comes from Tuva, a russian province next to Mongolia. They blend a unique kind of singing, typical from the region, called throat singing, with rock. I won't attempt to describe it, it's better for you to check it out. Anyways, here's a review from Allmusic:
As if Tuvan throat singing -- that ancient polytonal, guttural vocal style that originated in Central Asia and has found an increasing curiosity among Westerners -- wasn't otherworldly enough already, here is one of the leading practitioners of the subgenre doing "In A Gadda Da Vida." But not only does Yat-Kha -- Albert Kuvezin, Evgeniy Tkachev and Scipio comprise the stripped-down lineup this time -- take on heavy metal prototype Iron Butterfly's classic hit, they also apply their particular alchemy to Joy Division ("Love Will Tear Us Apart"), Bob Marley ("Exodus"), Kraftwerk ("Man Machine"), Hank Williams ("Ramblin' Man") and other icons of pop music. On paper the concept bleeds novelty: Kuvezin's voice is so coarse, deep and strangled as to make Tom Waits' sound pretty (well, not quite, but almost), and throat singing, by its very nature, is a difficult listen, an acquired taste even among those who readily take to the less accessible strands of world music. But it works, and it works well, because Kuvezin is not your run-of-the-mill Tuvan throat singer and Yat-Kha has never been bound by the form's traditions. Unlike the leading Tuvan group Huun-Huur-Tu, which plays fairly close to the rules, and of which Kuvezin was a founding member, Yat-Kha has, since its inception in 1991, shown a tendency toward experimentation. Kuvezin augments the traditional instrumentation with electric and acoustic guitars and synthesizers, and has always been as interested in mingling his ideas with Western ones as he is in drawing attention to the Tuvan style. When Yat-Kha covers Santana's "Black Magic Woman" or the Rolling Stones' "Play with Fire" here, Kuvezin and producers Ben Mandelson and Justin Adams ensure that the songs' structures remain familiar enough for those who've heard them on the radio a thousand times. But nothing -- repeat, nothing -- can prepare for the primal interpretations of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks," Captain Beefheart's "Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles" (Beefheart may, in fact, be the closest approximation of Kuvezin in American music) or Motörhead's (really) "Orgasmatron," recast as a twirling, swirling trance dance. And the frighteningly stark a cappella reading of Francis McPeake's folk song "Wild Mountain Thyme" sure doesn't sound like it did when the Byrds or Joan Baez did it. If you want to make a bet with a friend that you can play music unlike anything else in the world, Re-Covers would be the place to begin.
I'm not much of a fan of indie pop. for a while, I listened to a lot of Deerhoof, which I will eventually post in this blog, but not much else. But letaly I've been listening to a lot of Blonde Redhead, specifically this album. I found out about the band when listening to Last.FM radio, and at first I kinda put it away until these last few days. The first song, Elephant Woman, is one of my favourite songs. Ever. I don't know if it's the sadness in the Kazu Makino's voice, or the melancholy in the rest of the music, but this particular song is the perfect entry into the album. Later on, it kinda gets annoying, namely in Amadeo Pace's voice. But it's still a good winter album, sad and emotional. Here's a review from Pitchfork:
Blonde Redhead have long been maligned as self-consciously artsy, drawing facile comparisons to Sonic Youth and a host of No-Wave acts-- references that owe as much to their bandname's tribute to a DNA song as to Blonde Redhead's often discordant noise-rock. That rhetoric, of course, should've been shelved after the release of Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. I only felt I should mention it again because, apparently, many of their party-line detractors never got the memo. By Melody, much of Blonde Redhead's feedback-laced art-rock had given way to brittle pop and arm's-length romanticism, yet somehow they still caught flak for the sound they had already largely outgrown. Just saying, is all: What used to be true is now tired, and, with the release of Misery Is a Butterfly, such knee-jerk dismissals can finally be considered irrelevant.
On Melody, the band's artistic growing pains had already become evident, most notably in the wide-eyed, fairytale pining of "This Is Not", a vibrant synth-ballad that-- like the first protuberance of wing from a cocoon-- threatened to split the seams of their style-damaged rock wide open. That's not just flowery critic-speak, either-- Kazu Makino and the Pace twins (Amadeo and Simone) split from Touch & Go Records and financed their latest recording themselves, because, according to Simone, they "didn't want to have any kind of limits with what [they] wanted to do as far as expenses; with Touch & Go, sometimes things were a little tight."
The confidence that led them to strike out on their own-- even before 4AD expressed interest in the album-- is impressive. But more striking is how clearly that confidence has translated to their music. Freed from all constraints, Blonde Redhead are beautifully reborn on Misery Is a Butterfly. True, feelings of loss, insecurity, and outright alienation do factor heavily into the record's thematic vision (this butterfly isn't called "Misery" for nothing), but the band's sense of assuredness surrounds the album's themes of vulnerability.
Misery Is a Butterfly was recorded before being shopped to a label, but judging by the sound of the album, its eventual release on 4AD seems to have been an inevitability. From track one, the record is lacy and moody, perfectly suited to the one-time home of the Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil. The word "lush" doesn't quite capture the fluttering whirls of strings, keyboards, and delicately plucked guitar that open "Elephant Woman"; I'd go so far as to label such enveloping richness of instrumentation "baroque," perhaps even "rococo."
For Blonde Redhead's latest incarnation, the softer production simply serves as polish for tarnished, tired guitar, drums and keyboards. Here, the bristling energy that once held would-be sympathizers at bay has been turned inward, resulting in an unprecedented illusion of warmth. "Anticipation", for example, ventures into completely foreign territory for the band; it's vulnerable, yet remains emotionally available, and is breathtaking even in comparison to the band's most typically pretty compositions. Never before have Makino's gentle whispers seemed so genuine or close at hand. The psychedelia-inflected title track and the fractured desolation of "Falling Man" also offer inviting hints of the underlying humanity Blonde Redhead had, until now, been so reluctant to display.
Of course, even now, that humanity may be little more than an apparition. Their tales of heartache and desperation have cast Makino and Amadeo Pace-- the emotional heart of the band-- as tragically misunderstood, tortured poets who pin misery on their sleeves, never conceding that anyone else could be capable of understanding their pain. And despite the more inviting nature of Misery's music and production, they remain insular and distant here, as well. Only on "Anticipation" are Makino's vocals as beckoning as their musical surroundings; elsewhere, Blonde Redhead remain as they've always been: beautiful and vacant.
But they excel at being just that. It bears repeating that Misery Is a Butterfly is a gorgeous achievement. Parrying the double-edged sword of pathos in music-- the "emo" trap, if you will-- Blonde Redhead have perfected their own unusual strain of perceived insincerity. They said it themselves, and it still rings true: "Fake can be just as good." Though this album's lustrous ornamentation is often placed at odds with its halting vocals, Blonde Redhead are wise enough to embrace their own imperfections. They once espoused the merits of loving another despite our faults, and it shouldn't be hard for fans to seize on that sage advice. Misery Is a Butterfly makes it easy.
Blonde Redhead - Misery is a butterfly (2004)- 4AD
I must confess that ever since I discovered Ruins, I have been stalking throughout the internet the band's drummer and currently single member Tatsuya Yoshida. The best of it was that the more I discovered, the more there was to discover. But finding something about Yoshida's other project, Koenji Hyakkei, was a little hard at first, and an endeavour that I thought to be jinxed. Everytime I found a link, it was either broken, down, not working properly and god knows what else. But finally, after much rummaging through the middle pages of google searches, I came up with their latest album, Angherr Shisspa. I finally got lucky. But, to be honest, I didn't like the sound at first. Although I was already used to different music, chaotic melodies or even the lack of such, I wasn't prepared to such a heavy use of singing, at least without more Kobaian in the middle. But, goddammit, I didn't come so hardly to find the album just to dismiss it. So I gave it another try. And another. And Yet another, until I found myself whistling the tunes on the street. Of course, after this, I haven't managed to put it down. It's not just good, it has the weird zeuhl vibe, delves a bit into lyrical singing, and comes up with stunning songs that just want to go on and on. The voice becomes truly an instrument in this album, and doesn't just ride the wave the other instruments create. Enjoy the album, and if you don't like it at first, give it another try. And another. And yet another.
After a 4 year break, Yoshida Tatsuya's Koenjihyakkei (the Japanese Magma) return with an excellent new album, a new line up and a different sound. Bassist Sakamoto Kengo remains, but the female front line is all new. Yamamoto Kyoko is the main vocalist and sounds like an operatically trained soprano. Kanazawa Miyako plays keyboards, and where her predecessor used mainly 70s sounding electric keyboards, she concentrates mostly on piano with a few synth flourishes here and there. Komori Keiko plays soprano sax and clarinet, and possibly also also some other reed instruments. Underpinning it all is the relentless, virtuosic drumming of Yoshida Tatsuya, who is still the main composer. All members of the band sing, which allows for some stunning vocal arrangements. Where the sound of Nivrayam called the later Magma of Udu Wudu and Attahk to mind, Angherr Shisspa recalls the instrumental backing of 1001Degrees Centigrade (particularly the interplay between piano and reeds) and the massed vocals of Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh.
The album opens withTziidall Raszhisst, the celestial soprano of Kyoko floating over a delicate piano/synth backing before the rhythm section crash in and voice and soprano sax chase each other over an impossibly tight piano/bass/drums backing, interspersed with the occasional chorale. Kengo's bass takes the lead during a brief Ruins style interlude before the band return to the main theme and the album is still less than 4 minutes into its playing time. This pretty much sets the scene for what is to follow - pieces in complex time signatures which change every 12 - 16 bars, the whole thing played with near mathematical precision but also with great feeling.
Rattims Friezz, the album's second track, was composed by Kengo but complements Yoshida's compositional style beautifully. If anything there is a more overt jazz influence here, but it's very much in keeping with the album as a whole.
Grahbem Jorgazz is a contribution from keyboard player Miyako, and moves more towards the austere modernism of Art Zoyd or Henry Cow and which pushes Kyoko's voice towards the to of its range.
The real gem on the album is Fettim Paillu, the fourth track. It opens with a lengthy (by Yoshida's standards) voice/piano duet which shows just how much he has matured as a composer. The entry of bass, drums and sax pushes us back into familiar Zeuhl territory, especially when Yoshida delivers a Christian Vander style lead vocal which is a highly effective contrast to the soaring soprano, while the arrangement recalls some of Shub Niggurath's wilder moments. About half way through there is a beautiful piano/clarinet interlude which veers between jazz and contemporary classicism. A brief reprise of the opening piano/vocal interlude follows, before the manic frenzy makes a brief return. This could be Yoshida's finest composition to date.
Qivem Vrasstor opens with a highly effective call and response of the main theme, with female voice and soprano sax being echoed by male voice, bass and drums. The relative simplicity and clarity of this track is on a par with Christian Vander's Wurdah Itah, although the arrangement is slightly more fleshed out.
The only below par track is Mbingvahre, another contribution from Kengo which starts out with some massed chanting and rudimentary percussion before veering off in to an Acid Mother's Temple style freak out. As a stand alone track it's highly effective, but it disrupts the flow of an otherwise seamlessly sequenced album.
The title track is a return to the style of the earlier pieces, with Keiko switching to what sounds like tenor sax to produce some Coltrane like squalls, and with Miyako adding rather more synth to the sound. This track contains perhaps the best sax/vocal interplay on the album, punctuated with Yoshida's ride cymbal. There's also a nicely judged jazzy interlude which is allowed to run its course and showcases Kengo's bass playing.
Wammilica Iffirom closes the album, and by this stage there are no more surprises in store. Keiko uses an echo unit to build up a more meaty sax sound, and each band member gets a turn in the spotlight. The tempo slows down dramatically towards the end, and the band play what sounds suspiciously like Kreuhn Kohrmann Iss De Hundin (the end of Magma's MDK) before returning to the main theme.
This album falls just short of being a masterpiece - the inclusion of Mbinvahre causes the album to lose direction, but otherwise it's a near flawless piece of work. There are a few nods towards Magma, but as ever Koenjihyakkei have their own take on Zeuhl. This album also sees a maturing of their musical style - while there are plenty of sudden twists and turns, they're also prepared to let the quieter, more melodic interludes unfold and develop at their own pace. 4.5 stars - if you're only going to buy one Japanese Zeuhl album, this is the one to get.
Koenji Hyakkei - Angherr Shisspa (2005) - Skin Graft Records
Breaking off from japanese artists, here is Guapo's tenth album, Elixirs. From The Needle Drop:
For just over 10 years, London's Guapo has been working in the world of avant and progressive rock.
The band's past is a bit hard to track with its numerous lineup changes and guest musicians. The most recent change in roster was the resignation of Matthew Thompson, the founding member of Guapo, which occurred just before the release of 2005's Black Oni.
The departure of Thompson has left Guapo with percussionist David Smith and multi-instrumentalist Daniel O'Sullivan. Though O'Sullivan is by no means a founding member of the band, but he was essential in honing the sound on Guapo's last two LPs: Five Suns and Black Oni.
These two albums have been pivotal in building Guapo's following of fans, so it's hard not to credit O'Sullivan as an asset to the band. Also take into consideration that Guapo's earlier work such as the raw and guitar-driven Towers Open Fire or the noise-latent The Ducks and Drakes of Guapo and Cerberus Shoal sound completely different than their latest releases, so it's not as if the handle of "Guapo" hasn't endured great changes already.
So, with the loss of Thompson, O'Sullivan has taken on additional instruments--namely vocals, autoharp, bass, guitars--and is working to keep the moniker alive with percussionist David Smith on Elixirs.
Guapo touts this latest release as their most poignant album to date, and it has to be given to them that it certainly has a focused sound. But with the loss of Thompson, there some obvious changes.
Right off the bat, Elixirs clearly favors a cerebral approach to music over some of the aggressive sounds on Five Suns and Black Oni. The building strings, slow pace, and light percussion of Elixirs' first track, "Jeweled Turtle," make it an ominous introduction. The viola and violin performance lent by Sara Hubrich brings this opener an atmosphere that could not have been achieved otherwise.
Changes usually come in slow movements over the course of this song's thirteen minutes, but others are more surprising. Just past the 7-minute mark, an interruption of hiss quickly turns into a flurry of light cymbals and sporadic keys. A drop in percussion leads to the lone strumming of a minor chord on electric guitar, and everything rockets off into a one-chord build into a sound that flirts with with the tradition of Klezmer or Middle Eastern music.
"The Planks" also carries on in the Middle Eastern tradition with its almost droning guitar strumming and galloping beat.
The odd time signatures and heavy percussion the band usually features comes right up on the album's second track, "Aurthur, Elsie and Frances." There are a few edits on this one where it seems the percussion was recorded in a more rudimentary fashion, but it doesn't pull from the song's power that much.
"Arthur, Elsie and Frances" and "King Lindorm" are where Guapo really lets the madness they keep reserved on much of Elixirs run free.
The two-part section of "Twisted Stems: The Heliotrope" and "Twisted Stems: The Selenotrope" are the only tracks that feature vocals, and after some careful listening, it seems as if one track is an answer to another.
Both songs start with the same percussive sound from what might be a singing bowl. The tempo, space between piano chords, and multi-tracked vocals are also similar, but the opposites of the two tracks seem just as planned as their commonalities.
"The Heliotrope"'s major tonality and male vocals are a great change from the dissonance and mournful female vocals--which are performed by Jarboe of the experimental rock group Swans--that drive "The Selenotrope."
Elixirs' deep and experimental nature may very well put to rest any doubts held by fans with the loss of Matt Thompson, and if O'Sullivan keeps Guapo going in this direction, there will be good reason for a follow-up.
If you're into Guapo, you may also enjoy Magma, Ruins, Sunn O))), Zombi, and Swans.
This one is a mistery to me. I was browsing through the files of a user in soulseek, and stumbled upon this. After downloading it, I heard it many times, and, eventually, some of the bands began to grow on me. So it was my rough first time with Melt Banana, Boredoms, Ruins, Otomo Yoshihide and Boris, to name a few. I went around the web, looking for some information on it, but couldn't find any. So, this time, it's up to me to pass it on, so that, who knows, maybe someone will listen to a band on the album for a first time too and fall in love with it. Should this link or any other be broken, leave a comment and I will do my best to upload the file again.
Coming all the way from Osaka, Japan, Afrirampo are a duo - Oni on the guitar and Pikachu on the drums. Urusa in Japan is a rocky album, filled with screams and hard riffs. Did I mention it has screams? It's not my favourite, but it's a fine album. Suuto Breakor, on the other hand, I can't put down. I'm addicted to their little screams (yes, I have a thing with japanese women screaming, bear with me). The first track is especially good, and you are transported to a jungle (or zoo), filled with shouting monkeys. From that, they manage to create a nice beat that transforms throughout the album. It's great fun.
Wild, crazy and highly entertaining Afrirampo have quickly made an impact in Japan and abroad. The young female duo hails from Osaka, a city known for its lack of restraint and hearty sense of humor. Afrirampo indeed have been described as filling “a long-standing idiot savant gap on the Osaka underground scene”. Guitarist/ vocalist Oni and drummer/vocalist Pika (sometimes listed as Pikacyu) first teamed up in May of 2002, when they were both still teenagers. They first played together during a loose jam held in a park near Osaka Castle, which mostly involved drumming and dancing. Today they perform dressed in red, which theoretically enhances their senses, and with their faces heavily made-up. Even though the musical training is, in their words “for small”, they manage to drag all sorts of sounds out of their instruments and do so with boundless energy. Somehow they manage to be both cute and barbaric at the same time. Afrirampo it seems largely improvise their performances, often very noisily, giving their steadily growing audience the impression that anything may happen next. By August 2003 their reputation was such that they were getting bookings in the States. In June of 2004 Afrirampo decided to move to Cameroon for three months and live amongst researchers and Pygmy tribespeople. This jungle bound experience further inspired them to have open minds and to play with abandon. In August they returned to tour the US with Lightning Bolt, and then toured in Europe with Sonic Youth. Oni and Pica also made friends with many of Japan’s most far out musicians, including legendary weirdo Keiji Haino, Jojo Hiroshige of Hijokaidan, former Boredom Toyohito Yoshikawa, Munehiro Narita of High Rise, and especially Acid Mothers Temple . Acid Mothers Temple in fact released some of Afrirampo’s early recordings on their indie label AMT. Afrirampo also released a mini album on Osaka indie Gyunne in July 2004, and have a few even more obscure releases, some released as by “A”. And of course cuts on albums released in Poland. In April 2005 Afrirampo released their first full album, URUSAINJAPAN, on Kioon/Sony. They also have the album Kore Ga Mayaku Da (This Is The Drug) available in the States on John Zorn’s Tzadik label.
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