Amon Tobin - Out From Out Where
I love the way Amon Tobin's new record starts. You just fall into "Back from Space" as if someone just dropped the needle on the record in the middle of something. Bells and chimes swirl for a second before the scattered DSP blast of beats kicks in. The ride has begun ladies and gentlemen, please hold on to your seats.
Tobin's latest for Ninja Tune, Out from out Where, is a further excursion into dark and rhythmically complex territories. These are truly Tobin landscapes, vistas and terrains which have been structured and scored by a man whose passionate attention to detail and beat are unmistakable. Born and raised in Brazil, Tobin has several generations of the samba, bossa nova, and tropicalia burned into his cortex. Coupling those with a love of the jungle rhythms which have flowed out of the European continent, Tobin creates powerful tracks which are filled with funk and noise.
There are squelching beats, blasts of noise, samples culled from bicyle tires and fart noises, chimes and bells and water bottles, all permutated together into distinct structures which sound like leitmotifs and soundtrack themes for dark tales of the new millenium. "Proper Hoodidge" skips, scatters, squelches, and slouches along like the nocturnal sojourns of a dark outlaw of the neglected wharf district in some forgotten city. "Verbal" throws down a heavy beat and an acoustic guitar behind the scattered and cut-up vocal track from MC Decimal R, turning the hip-hop vocal into a chattering sample that provides the momentum for the track.
Actually, there isn't any part of this record I don't love. From the distorted breaks of "Chronic Tronic" to the psychedelic wave machine of "Hey Blondie" to the Cosmos-inspired opening of "Triple Science" (which, of course, is only the beginning of worm-hole style break beat ride) to the solitary footsteps of "Proper Hoodidge" Out from Out Where stuns and amazes me. Amon Tobin reaches high on his fourth record and easily clears the mark he was shooting for. This is nobody's jazz but his own and it is a sound that your brain will be eager to assimilate.
Miles Tilmann / LARVAE - sub:702
I'm not quite sure why Miles Tilmann isn't getting more work. His discography is too short a read, filled with several tracks on compilations and a few more EPs and vinyl records. And yet, his work just sings. The latest piece is the A-side of a heavy ring of vinyl from sub:marine Records. "Double" is a achingly expansive movement of beat-dappled ambience which is like a too-brief sun break in the winter gloom. The clouds part, light falls down in a cascade of moving color, and the grey sloughs away. Comprising of two parts, the second act of "Double" shivers and glistens across a bed of light beats. It is, tragically, over much too soon.
The B-side of sub:702 is a track called "Seclusion Dub" by Atlanta-based LARVAE. Composed specifically to pace the tempo of "Double," "Seclusion Dub" is the inverted shadow of the A-side's scattered light show. You can hear the sinister elements of the low-end rumble which made LARVAE a perfect contributor to 2001's tribute to dark hop, Low End Recon. Dub and noise are rubbed together, gently at first and then more firmly as the track processes.
7-inch vinyl is a tricky beast: it is both succinct and tantalizing. The size of the record allows an artist to present a concise idea -- get in, seduce you, leave you breathless on the couch. But, at the same time, it can also be a tease, a breath of honeyed air which leaves you hungering for more. The 7-inch is also a challenge; the artist throws a slice of music out and waits for a response. I can tell you what is going to happen with sub:702. We're going to storm the stage; we want more.
Porter Ricks/Techno Animal - Symbiotics
There are two ways to hear echoes underwater at ten kilometers down. The first requires a titanium-plated bathysphere and a research vessel capable of anchoring itself over the Marianas Trench and lowering your listening station down to into that vast slit in the earth. Not to mention the exorbitant cost of the gear that will allow you to be able to record the sluggish sound waves which percolate through that infinite darkness at the bottom of the sea. I mean, if you've got the time and capital, by all means, go right ahead and launch this expedition. But, if you are a little short on either, there is always option two: pick up the Porter Ricks and Techno Animal collaboration called Symbiotics.
Coming from two ends of the European dub resurgence of the last decade, Porter Ricks and Techno Animal have injected the traditional dub sound with a manic, bio-mechanical virus. Porter Ricks (the long echo duo of Andy Mellwig and Thomas Koner) had put out a number of 12" at this point, helping to cement the Basic Channel sound which would open the gates for an entire generation of German laptop junkies to reconstruct echoes around static and silence; whereas the approach of Techno Animal (the sonic ricochet between Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick) was more medical and mechanical -- breaking apart the dub with clinical precision in order to discover just where the echo lay. Symbiotics was meant to be a true collaborative effort, but what came to be was a sharing of source material. Porter Ricks provided elongated instances of time to Techno Animal, and the Animal in return gave Ricks a handful of their sterilized sound waves. The symbiosis of the title is the resultant soundscapes which sound like both and neither -- the evolutionary next generation of sound to which you have no defenses.
It is deep, dark, watery dub, beats and soundscapes that capture the movement of large masses of water under extreme pressure. "Polytoxic 1" and "Polytoxic 2" are Porter Ricks treatments -- full of the deep richness of the black water, propelled by the insistent hiss of static signals. These treatments will destroy an oscilloscope with the writhing motion of their heavy tread. Alternating between these two are the Techno Animal creations of "Hydrozoid" and "Bio-Morphium," fiercer creatures who find your tiny bathysphere a delectable treat, and the constant pounding you hear are the creatures' vast skulls slamming again and again into the side of your metal tomb. The equipment in your vessels shrieks and sparks and cowers in fear.
After the opening assault and tramua of the descent, Porter Ricks returns with "Phosphoric," the first soundtrack delivered directly from the bottom of the trench -- the initial recordings of what you will hear after your small, banged-up craft has landed in the mud. It is nine minutes of complete vastness, dark open spaces filled with the sound of water breathing and venting. The heavy fluid around you gurgles and chatters and rumbles. You certainly can't see anything at these depths; all you can do is listen, and what you hear is the sound of monsters moving through the ink.
I wonder what kind of world flourishes flourishes ten kilometers underwater, and I know that I, small sight-dependent mammal that I am, will be utterly lost in that darkness. I will have to evolve and learn to listen. It really is a matter of symbiosis. Porter Ricks and Techno Animal will teach you; they will teach you how to survive at these depths, how to hear the life which thrives in these dark waters.
Tarmvred - Subfusc
As recording techniques and equipment become more accessible to anyone with a fistful of cash and a relatively quick computer system, musical experimentation becomes equally more available to those with a penchant for anything other than the latest pre-configured, rubber-stamped, assembly line formulation vomited forth by the major labels. For the experimentalist, there are fringes to explore, outer territories where sonic manipulation and rhythm are the only coin of the realm, and all other aspects of musical composition are neither invited nor expected. The outer territories are all about sound.
Far away from the formulaic smaltz of the earnest arena rock star and the calculated juxtapositions of peaches and cream innocence and back-room brothel sweaty sexuality is the place where there is no sun -- no sky -- for it has been blotted out by the nuclear storm of mankind's overbearing hubris. This is the realm of noise, and this post-industrial, post-biomechanical land is overrun by artists who fashion music from the clip of the overdriven speaker, the spark of a split cable, the buzz and the snarl of proximity feedback, and the growl of tortured machinery. Here you will find Jonas Johansson, operating under the moniker of Tarmvred.
In the 19th century, Beethoven wrote the Pastoral symphony, celebrating the natural world. In the 21st century, when musicians look to their landscape for inspiration, they see only factory towers that belch steam and fire into the sky; they see only the relentless growth of soulless fabrication; they can't see green forests or blue waters any longer, just the endless line of gray concrete-six lanes wide. Some artists react in horror, their music a agonized howl of unrelenting feedback; others look at these landscapes and see the inescapable imprint of mankind's hand on the natural world and they, in turn, put the imprint of man into the empty sound of the mechanized world.
They don't hear noise, they hear sound and rhythm; they hear specific instrumentation in the rattle of the factory, they hear a pulse and beat in the blast of steam from the furnaces. Their symphonies take elements from the cacophony of a wrecking yard at full production, much like their predecessors took the sun and the rain and the ducks and squirrels as inspiration, and use these as their sonic palettes.
Subfusc has seven untitled tracks and bristles with beats and static overload. It opens with a knife wind across a scoured plain, a sinuous dust devil that builds in energy as it approaches. It explodes above you, a bursting thunderhead of torrential acid rain and tumultuous lightning. The movements -- the "songs" -- rumble like massive underground movements if you keep the stereo low, and, if you turn it up (and, really, it should be played as loud as you can get it), the sound is a calamitous avalanche of released energy and overloaded static discharge. It does, at first, feel like getting the shit knocked out of you by three hulking brutes with steel-toed shoes and aluminum bats. But is that any different from the mental assault you undergo every day as a constant witness to the frenzied destruction of urban expansion? In two hundred years, musical historians will look back on these industrial pastorals and lament the transformation of the natural world. When our souls are gone, replaced by synthesized polymer-oil jellies and ceramic valves, we will listen to records like Subfusc and wonder how we lost our humanity.
Johansson's telling us: because we stopped listening, because we stopped asking for something creative, and just settled for machine-stamped action figures with sixteen pre-recorded number one hits. Johansson challenged himself to find music in the mechanical -- in the steel and the wire -- and, in order to save ourselves, we need to listen for it as well.
Tarmvred - Tintorama EP
There's a lot of people making noise out there, but none, in my estimation, makes it with quite the same cinematic verve as Jonas Johansson. I've been a crack whore for his work ever since his first release on Ad Noiseam. His latest record, the Tintorama EP, released by Low Res Records as a 12", shows that Johansson isn't resting on his laurels, dropping any old noise bit of garbage for his ardent fans. No, Johansson is still experimenting with the collision between organic synthesizer melodies and cataclysmic noise explosions, still punishing boundaries in an effort to break everything down into a single orgiastic implosion of melody and chaos.
Imagine: a bit of Disney animation, swiped from Bambi or some such animal friendly flick, where the bunnies and squirrels are at play in the fields. Lovely little flowers sway and bob in the warm summer light, their tiny flower heads all a-coo with winsome little songs. Okay, got that in your head? That's the opening forty seconds of "Arsenik". Then, suddenly, in this idyllic pastoral landscape comes a GIANT STEEL WOLVERINE TWO HUNDRED FEET TALL! It's teeth are longer than elephants and so sharp they cut the sunlight. Between its knobby toes (equipped with equally sharp nails, of course, because this is a DEATH WOLVERINE OF THE APOCALYPSE!) are the wings of a thousand crushed butterflies. Its breath is the satanic stench of boiled babies and its drool is caustic acid that burns the ground so badly that earthquakes are felt twenty miles away as the planet tries to recoil from the burning spittle. It farts and trees are turned to ash in its wake. It stomps through the field, scattering bunnies and squirrels, demolishing the little choirs of petunias and daisies -- you can hear their little soundtracks being flayed apart by the thundering onslaught of over-saturated beats and the sky-shredding shriek of metallic percussion. The DEATH WOLVERINE OF THE APOCALYPSE loves to destroy the tiny little happy creatures of the woods because --- Muwhwhaahahah! -- that is its sole purpose in life. Must. Crush. All. Pretty. Things.
Tarmvred will scare your neighbors. Tarmvred makes squirrels fall out of trees. Tarmvred raises blisters. Johansson makes noise like no one else and he's just getting better with every record.
Tarmvred - Viva 6581
8-bit music is being heralded as the new shit on the electronic music landscape and, while everyone is busy trying to rescue their neglected '80s circuitry so as to squeeze those thin sounds out of the resident chips, Jonas Johansson has been mangling the sound of the 8-bit chip for some time in his live shows. Tarmvred's new EP, Viva 6581, is an homage to the MOS6581 -- the soundchip which resides inside the plastic and silicon heart of the Commodore 64 and the Sidstation. While the heart of Viva 6581 may be the tiny 8-bit processor, the rest of the machine is a steam-pumping, metal-gnashing, beat-driven 21st century monster of distortion and feedback.
Some of the ultra distorted computer game music disco may be familiar to those who have seen Tarmvred perform over the last year as the four tracks of Viva 6581 utilize elements from his blistering live set. "I was a teenage robot" is the tag line that runs across the back of the t-shirts sold during that tour and Viva 6581 is the soundtrack for those awkward androids constructed of obsolete parts and the technology of the last decade. Sure, you want to dance and sing, but your gyroscopic stabilizers are all fucked up and your CPU has got a 128K bottleneck on the sound card. Your pistons misfire 75 percent of the time and your battery life is about 25 minutes when you're disconnected from the house current. But, still, you've got the funk and you've got the moves -- it is just a matter of programming loops of repetitive movements after all.
Tarmvred's Subfusc is an enduring classic of the rhythmic noise genre and Jonas has made good on his indifference to that genre label with Viva 6581 (which was produced with assistance from Johannes Hedberg). You can't call Viva 6581 a noise record any more than you can solely classify it as a 8-bit record. You can just give yourself up to the Miami Vice theme music that opens "8" and just as eagerly allow your skull to be cleansed by the caustic noise which destroys the fragile drum pads and tears the soaring synth melody out of the sky. Machines dance, shit gets broken, it is the cycle of things. But, in the end, the squelchy binary melody sneaks back in. If Subfusc was Jonas' commentary on the inevitable mechanization of humanity, Viva 6581 is the beacon of human creativity in the brittle world of ones and zeros. Even in binary systems, there are patterns; where patterns exists, you can find a beat. And is a pulse enough to be defined as being alive? Viva 6581 gives new life to the phrase "do the robot."
Teledubgnosis - Magnetic Learning Center
Ted Parsons has gone all soft on us. No, that's not quite the right word. He's gone vaporous. Ted -- who has drummed for Prong, Godflesh, the Swans and Foetus (a list which certain denotes a heavy thunder of sound) -- has a new project, Teledubgnosis, and he's gone an infinite distance from the sonic thrash of grindcore and noise rock. Released on New York City's Wordsound label, Teledubgnosis' Magnetic Learning Center is a heavy weather collection of dub landscapes.
Teledubgnosis is the combination of Parsons, Jason Wolford, and Gregory Damien Grinnell. It is Grinnell's trumpet on 80 Creeps that lends a Nils Petter Molvaer flair to the drifting ambience of the track. In fact, the whole song sounds like a recently discovered track from Molvaer's Solid Ether record with Bill Laswell working the mixing desk. While Parsons lives in Oslo, Norway and Wolford hails from New York City, Grinnell lives in Boston where he does a number on the multi-media art scene, providing bizarre footage to accompany electronic musicians. He gets a bit of a brass workout with ska band The Toasters and is also involved with hip-hop/reggae crew The Unity 2.
Wolford was the guy behind the Technics 1200s for the Decadent Dub Team (based in Dallas, Texas, during the 1980s and 1990s). Since moving to New York City, he's been exploring the outer fringes of his home studio working on dub and musique concrete material. His passion for outrageous home-made instrumentation provides some of the stranger sounds for the record.
It's an eclectic bunch that has come together for Magnetic Learning Center and somehow they've managed to meld all of their disparate backgrounds into a layered, textured sound. Teledubgnosis is Jamaican Dub; it's electronic world music; it's static bombardment of lost radio shows from forgotten islands; it's Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound hog-tied to an overdriven drum machine. It's ambient dub metal riddim.
"Some|Thing" is a dub nightmare of a deserted factory. Everything would be covered with dust if it weren't for the thick mist which pervades the endless rooms. The echoes are wet and cavernous. Piano notes drip like fat water drops from broken pipes. "Close to the Fire" has the extra bass echo of Crooklyn Dub's Tony Maimone (who actually appears on three track all together) and his fat sound thickens the atmosphere being kicked out by the others. "Heading West" has a flowing rhythm like the sound of new car tires against old pavement -- the click, click, click of the miles passing beneath the wheels. Add in a ghostly spaghetti western guitar (with just a touch of Eastern twang to it) and you're lost in a road movie of your own making.
By the fifth track, I've made two notes: "kick out the jams" and "stoke up the bong." Both are true. Neither are absolutes. It's that sort of record. "Industrial Dub" seems like such an oxymoron that I'm not sure it can be used, but there is a charged energy which pervades even the reverb. By its name, Teledubgnosis implies an obscure science, an occult mystery of sound which is not only practiced only by the rare initiate, but it should only be heard by the chosen elite. Get initiated. The Mysteries of the Magnetic Learning Center are waiting for you.
Tertium Non Data - Hers Is Blood
Tertium Non Data is Latin for "the third is not given," an alchemical reference to the combination of two unique elements to form a third element. How this transformation occurs is an occult mystery, an unexplained reaction the chemistry of which has never been fully illuminated. While the basic idea of this partnership is not lost on the savvy music listener who appreciates the hit and miss nature of celebrity collaborations, it is the occult nature -- the unknown mystery of secret processes -- of this effort which permeates this project. Tertium Non Data is grounded by John Bergin (once of Trust Obey and c17h19no3) and Bret Smith (who mainly records under the moniker of Caul, but also did some work in Trust Obey with Bergin), and their alchemical creation is an operatic industrial soundtrack replete with theatrical ambience. The third element rising from this mixture is given voice by a number of guest musicians. On Hers Is Blood the majesty is supplied by jazz vocalist Pam Bricker (recently heard on Thievery Corporation's The Mirror Conspiracy).
Hers Is Blood opens with "I Know You Will," a drifting lament anchored by Pam Bricker's sorrowful voice, surrounded by swells of violins rising plaintively out of a white mist. This is a heart's last request, a woman's plea for company as she lies dying. The entire album is ensnared in this instant upon the lip of passage, caught up at the cusp of death. The lurching beat and wandering melody of "Final Resting Place: Snow" is the relentless approach of the crows towards the dead man of the song, the scratched vocals their voices as they collect about the body. After the monstrous assault of "Box-Inside," Pam Bricker returns with the mid-tempo "Low," a woman's fearful frozen instant of abandonment that is enveloped with beats and subterranean rumbles and a string section that both soothes and terrifies. She cries out under the boot-heel attack of "Hers is Blood." "Angelbox Closed" is a pine box on a wind-swept cliff that, at your touch, shatters into a cutting storm of blood-seeking dark birds. The record closes with a cover of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks," wherein Jimmy Page's guitar and Robert Plant's vocals are replaced by Ms. Bricker's soulful voice and a cavernous bass guitar -- a combination makes the increases the menace of the black waters beyond the levee.
Hers Is Blood is not a happy record, but it is an honest record: an honest collection of songs about fear and loss and pain and death. Thoroughly empathic, resolutely orchestral and appropriately operatic, Hers Is Blood is the scene of a passionate struggle, an imprinted memory wherein one faces the penultimate moment of blood, where one struggles at the foot of death for belief and love and life.
The Thievery Corporation - The Mirror Conspiracy
The Thievery Corporation's The Mirror Conspiracy will soothe whatever is ailing you. Boils, pustules, headaches, backaches, nagging coughs that threaten to rattle your ribs loose, bowel rumblings that scare the cat, insistent black dots that dance incessantly at the edge and center of your vision, goiters, corns, hemorrhaging: you name it, this disc will take care of it. Not fix your ailment, I'm not so brave as to proclaim that sort of miracle cure from an aural expediency, but The Mirror Conspiracy will definitely take away your discomfort and pain. This is what charlatans would have played in the background if the technology had availed itself while they hawked their snake oil. It makes you malleable, receptive, ready to believe that not only can pigs fly, but so can you. Just sit back, rub your temples a bit, and release yourself from that nasty grip that everyday societal pressure has got on your ass. Thievery Corporation is that last summer breeze, coming in through your open window and taking you back out the same way.
Their love of bossa nova, jazz, and dub has been extended to encompass forgotten film soundtracks and the summery sounds of Italian instrumental music of the late '60s. And space. Man, these songs have such huge spatial echoes booming through them. A great deal of what makes Thievery Corporation's blend of all these influences so damn delicious is that they just aren't in any hurry and each beat falls where it will in its own time. This is Zen downtempo: you take it at the pace it delivers itself and you don't rush it or yourself. You breathe in the space between the notes (where you will naturally if you just let yourself). You lament the ends of songs and find rapture in the opening melodies of the next. In short, you fall in love again and again. Ah, so many continents, so many influences, so much delight to be found in The Mirror Conspiracy. All in the space of a sublime hour.
This Morn' Omina - 7 Years of Famine
This Morn' Omina's 7 Years of Famine is a tribal ritual, make no mistake. To listen to this record is to partake in a dark ceremony of ancient communion and mystical transformation. Sounding like a mix between the work of Vromb, Ah Cama-Sotz and the Hybryds, 7 Years of Famine is a late-night listening experience, best heard in a room lit by firelight and filled with sweating, writhing bodies. "One eYed Man" has a simple liturgy -- "in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" -- and, once you have learned the principle, you can gather round the ceremony stone with the rest of the attendants and lose yourself in the choral-driven techno beat.
The atmosphere of "The Other Side" evolves slowly, beginning as a tiny sandstorm blown across ancient dunes. Voices creep in, crepuscular wraiths drifting with the errant wind from the deep desert. This is the beginning of the seven part mystery ceremony, and "The Other Side" tugs at you like a fine sand pelting your skin, dusting you off in preparation for your entrance into the holy temple itself. Your first moment inside is the orgiastic "One eYed Man," a furiously pounding trance ritual which, by its very pace and insistent rhythms, will pull you into the center of the maelstrom. "The Burning Hand" spins away into the ecstatic realms of goa-trance, building from the sweaty communion of the previous track into an endless cycle of sound and light.
"Les Signes dans le Désert" is an atmospheric interlude, the soundtrack to your initiation into the Inner Mysteries, filled with exotic percussive instrumentation which highlight each step of your enlightenment into the whispered secrets of the sanctum. You are purified in a fiery ablution before the assembled mob during "(The) Fires Within," and, as your body disintegrates into ash and fiery spark, you are shuttled into a realm of expansive consciousness. This is "Currents" and your body may be lost, but your mind is allowed to swim into the open spaces between stars, listening to the solar wind and the endless echo of the centuries. The final act of the ceremony is your ascension and arrival at the "Monad."
7 Years of Famine is a spiritual whirlwind of techno, industrial, ambient, and rhythmic noise along with Middle Eastern and African rhythms, and everything is spun into a orgiastic nocturnal ceremony. It shouldn't work, and even as I describe it, it sounds impossible. But this is what This Morn' Omina is all about: making ritual music out of any element which they find useful. They don't cling to conventions; they laugh at genre boundaries. They are building powerful ceremonies to forgotten pantheons, striving to shake the sand from buried statues and to ring the heavens with their sound. If gothic dance clubs are the modern temples of the Eleusinian Mysteries, then This Morn' Omina is the High Priest and 7 Years of Famine is his holy ritual. Highly recommended.
This Morn' Omina - Le Serpent Blanc - Le Serpent Rouge
This Morn' Omina have a tough job facing them: how to top the impressive nocturnal ritual record of 7 Years of Famine. I've been resistant to listening to their new two-CD record, Le Serpent Blanc - Le Serpent Rouge, for two reasons: (1) I'm not entirely sure such an improvement is possible; and (2), I'm not sure my desire for TMO to knock my socks off again won't get in the way of appreciating this record for being different.
Because it is. I can tell you that right now. No track on Le Serpent Blanc - Le Serpent Rouge stomps with the same Matrix-style rave-up fervor that so filled "One-Eyed Man" from 7 Years of Famine. Which is probably okay; you only really need one track like that in your life.
More sinuous and more sensual than their previous record, Le Serpent Blanc - Le Serpent Rouge is the beginning of a new trilogy for This Morn' Omina. "This is ritual musick, this is Nyan I" is the description I am handed along with this record and, as I pass along this information to you, you should treat it as a pass key to the environment into which This Morn' Omina transports you.
The four-on-the-floor tracks of Le Serpent Blanc -- "Epoch," "Suneater," "(the) Ninth Key," "The Immutable Sphere" and "Uraeus" -- aren't as world-beat techno as Juno Reactor's work, but they do have that same flair for border-breaking goa trance that Ben Watkins does. "Epoch," after a brief intro of tiny cymbals and atmospherics breaks into the beats and takes off on its snake-rousing journey. "Suneater" shuttles back and forth between a single line of spoken dialogue and a wordless male chorus for a minute or two -- giving you a chance to catch your breath -- before inducing a Kundalini serpent awakening. "Taliesin" is a insidious dance, the serpent wriggling up through the vertebrae of your spine. "Return to the end and the beginning," a female voice whispers, revealing the Ouroborian nature of the ritual. You dance to lose yourself; you dance to resurrect yourself. (And I love the imbedded joke of "tail sin" in the name of the track.) The ritual of Le Serpent Blanc is euphoric, an orgiastic dance ritual which extends into infinity.
In contrast, Le Serpent Rouge is a mental journey, an ambient and internalized excursion into ritual headspace. Mika, This Morn' Omina's chief conspirator, explains the contrast: "Le Serpent Blanc and Le Serpent Rouge are the antithesis of one another -- as simple as the serpent's split tongue or left and right, positive and negative, good and evil -- whereas the former delves deeper into the cause and effect of saccadic movement, the latter is of an introspective nature."
Le Serpent Rouge concerns itself with the movement of the serpent through a strange French zodiac riddle poem. Mika makes no attempt to explain the mystery -- in fact, he claims to have no solution to the puzzle -- but rather presents the 13 tracks of Le Serpent Rouge as an impression of the text. Each track on this second disc is named after one of the zodiac markers with the extra track being named for the serpent -- "Ophiochus." The tracks are shorter -- they range from just over a minute to five or so -- and are fraught with atmosphere. "Taurus" is a subterranean rumble as backdrop to the movement of several initiates with rain sticks and percussion who keep tempo for the High Priestess invocation as delivered by Poly Esther. The 100 seconds of "Virgo" is spent spiraling up a waterspout, turning and turning in an upward flowing rush of sound. Ms. Poly Esther whispers over a tiny plucked melody and an equally thin wisp of synthesized sound for the 68 seconds of "Libra." "Sagittarius" grooves like the movement of the desert air just as the sun colors the sand and sky with new light. The percussion instrumentation of "Ophiochus" sounds like snakes, and the regular rhythm of the guitar chords makes me think of the parallel tracks in the sand left by sidewinders. Wave patterns. It's all about the repetition of cycles.
I've lost my preconceptions somewhere along the way -- they've either been shaken free during the serpentine ritual musick of the white serpent side or been absorbed back into my body during the introspective navel-gazing of the white serpent riddle. Either way, I'm under This Morn' Omina's spell. Le Serpent Blanc - Le Serpent Rouge seduces with its insistent serpentine way. Whether you lean towards the light or the dark -- whether you prefer the physical or the spiritual in your music -- you will find a rich narcotic dose in This Morn' Omina. Highly recommended.
To Rococo Rot + I-Sound - Music Is A Hungry Ghost
I was listening to a few old Nick Cave records recently and it occurred to me what his secret was. It isn't just his magnetic voice, but also the whiff of menace that seems to snake beneath his words. You find yourself checking over your shoulder occasionally as well as turning on more lights than you need in any room as his music is on the stereo. To Rococo Rot and I-Sound infuse that same darkness throughout their recent collaborative effort, Music Is A Hungry Ghost. Much like Boards of Canada's Music Has a Right to Children, and its buoyant playfulness, Music Is A Hungry Ghost fully embodies its title. It opens with "A Number of Things"--a spattering bass note and a back-masked vocal effect--the industrialized effects of a nocturnally vibrant city. "How We Never Went to Bed" rolls along damp city streets at 4am. The sun has set hours ago--a lifetime ago--and, while you think the horizon should be bleeding pink and orange soon, it hasn't happened yet and the streets are still filled with gliding shadows. To Rococo Rot has always stated that their musical efforts have been an attempt to craft electronic music that has more of a home outside the club atmosphere, a sound that fits the fleeting impressionistic moments of the city.
Anchored by Stefan Schneider's bass lines and corralled by Craig Williamson's cut-up manifesto, Robert and Ronald Lippok weave their electronic melodies in the graceful space between the dark and the light, making songs that will never burn up a dance floor nor become elegiac reminders of a simpler childhood, but rather their songs fill the moments of our daily lives when we have a chance to disconnect from the monotony. "From Dream to Daylight" includes the soaring violin work of Alexander Balanescu and, amidst the distant sound of passing cars and popping asphalt and humming power lines, emerges a sonic daydream of a man riding public transportation yet yearning for the day when he can own his own vehicle and drive not just on the city streets but out of the city and into the country.
It's not just about being haunted, you see, Music Is a Hungry Ghost is all about finding grace and hope in a sterile, mechanized world. There is warmth and humor and life to be found in the electronic detritus that machines produce and Williamson (I-Sound) and the lads of To Rococo Rot have the same yearnings as we do: they want to be engaged and inspired by their world and not held down by its weight. There is a claustrophobic menace to the sound of this record, but that is simply what provides the shadows which enhance the edges of the record.
- T -
The alphabetical list below provides navigation into the review archive. To view a comprehensive list of all reviews available in the repository, click on the infinity symbol (∞) in the last box of the series.
Regarding materials for review, I can be reached at:
Publications I've Written For
- Eraldo Bernocchi
- Fields of the Nephilim
- Peter Gabriel
- Chris Randall
- This Morn' Omina