July 31, 2010

Blue Sunshine - The Glove

A small group of Stanford college grads take mucho dodgy batch of LSD called Blue Sunshine and start feeling the side-effects ten years later: hair loss and swift deterioration into erratic, sweaty, screaming, zombie killers (that hate loud sounds). The concept from this 1978 movie clearly tickled the cerebella of Messrs. Severin, Steven and Smith, Robert who snaffled the title for The Glove's one-off 1983 outing.

It is an odd record. According to the Banshees' Budgie, he and Siouxsie "looked in on a couple of sessions, and couldn't believe what was going on...a situation obviously fuelled by parties and various substances."

A shame that the project was overshadowed by the profile of Banshees and Cure output that year as both groups were enjoying smash hit singles - Dear Prudence; The Lovecats. A shame because the psychedelic pop and accessible experimentalism on Blue Sunshine is a delight from start to finish. Give it a go.

(Spooky to note out how in the years since our two protagonists have been no strangers to hair loss, and erratic, sweaty, screaming behaviour. The evils of drugs kids....)

Oddi wrth y brawd
orange sunshine

July 30, 2010

True Love Cast Out All Evil - Roky Erickson with Okkervil River

Tales of far from ordinary madness, incarceration, rough justice, frazzled religiosity, summation and valediction. No car crash. As the title suggests, this is music as catharsis; nothing less than a reckoning with legacy and self. Bravo Mr. Erickson, bravo.

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 29, 2010

Touch Works For Hurdy Gurdy And Voice - Phill Niblock

In y brawd's humble opinion, US minimalist composer Phill Niblock is the master of the lately cluttered field of drone-based minimalist music. Nobody does microtonal better: multiple tones sounding simultaneously for long stretches, creating a very dense, seemingly static sound which is duplicated, pitch shifted, brought closer then taken apart........very slowly.

Hurdy gurdy samples on opening piece courtesy of Jim O'Rourke. The next two voice based tracks feature treated throat singing by Thomas Buckner. These take on Mongolian or Tibetan meditative chant qualities. 

Allow the macroscopic wash to immerse you or accept the invitation to dive into microscopic detail. Either way, you'll be transported.

Oddi wrth y brawd
gazing with tranquility

July 28, 2010

Landings - Richard Skelton

All of Skelton’s work to date has been an explicit response to the death of his wife in 2004. His body of work is a memorial to her passing and an act of remembrance. Landings is a direct and naked response to this event.

The timeless and organic feel are a direct consequence of Skelton’s recording techniques. The bulk of the material included being improvised live over a period of four years in various remote locations throughout Northern England: on hillsides, along streams and rivers, and in deep forests. Moors are a favourite haunt. Skelton’s method in exploring his experiences of landscape is to become a conduit both for his own responses, and in the more complicated space of interaction between place and self. In his relationship to the West Pennines he forges a collusion that allows him to explore the inner landscape of his own grief. It is a Romantic document, a record of an intimate relationship with place and a minutely observed mapping of the locale – not out of place alongside Richard Long, Turner [see cover], Coleridge and resonating with Wordworth’s “still, sad music of humanity”.

Initially, Skelton made field recordings of the ambient sounds – the whine of wind through a ruined farm, rook call and such – and then augmented these with his own instrumentation. This gave way to him making recordings in situ; he uses the moors as an open-air studio, on occasion leaving a dicatophone in the trees, returning the recordings to their original source – what he calls ‘returning the music back to its birthing chambers’. Over time he realised his methods were obstructive, as the methodology was somehow mediating his proper experience of the landscape. Instead, Skelton trusted to his imaginative recall, and used elements of the landscape to aid this collusion at one remove: a bone plectrum, the scrape of tree litter on metal strings.

Landings is built around achingly beautiful and impossibly sad beds of strings. The magic lies in the detail, such as the shuddering bow-work and the crackle, creaks, scrapes, harmonics, echoes, moans, chirping, and all sorts of other evocative elements tangential to the central themes. It is extraordinary.

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 27, 2010

Where You Go I Go Too - Lindstrøm

Norway's Hans-Peter Lindstrøm has been referred to, somewhat preposterously, as "the king of neo-future-retro-disco". The 29 min title track points the way. Opening with Tangerine Dream cosmic ambience, morphing into a slow building motorik Banco De Gaia groove, before -  hey presto!  - we're blind-sided by Jeff Wayne War of the Worlds synth flourishes. From there we settle into a long satisfying series of polyrhythmic patterns and melodic riffs.

The other two tracks, though shorter in length, share the template: growing layers of kaleidoscoping instrumental textures fleshed out with a retro palette taking in balearic, soundtrack synth pop, new age, electro-cheese, lounge pop, all worked up into an eccentric disco lather. Not half as barmy as that might sound and highly palatable.

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 26, 2010

Focus Level - Endless Boogie

Curiously, the main man's barnet captures the spirit of this outfit: half pudding bowl turn of 70s Iggy, half highwater period Francis Rossi. The music press having fallen in love with the word choogle, y brawd was expecting a stoner jam around CCR  / Canned Heat type tropes. A pleasant surprise then to hear a wah wah'd and fuzzed mash up of Stooges & Quo with occasional gnarly Beefheartian "vocals".  All good, clean fun and surely the soundtrack to many a backyard smoking session this summer. New album, Full House Head, supposed to be even better- with added endlessnessness.

Oddi wrth y brawd


July 25, 2010

Gwerz Penmarc'h - Sonerien Du

Bombardes, berets and a brace of Breton beards.

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 24, 2010

Chemins De Terre - Alan Stivell

Guest post by Pastaman Vibration (Yeah!):

Track for track his best and most diverse album, head and shoulders above most folk-rock schlock from the early 70s. Bombardes, bagpipes and near metal riffing, as well as Stivell's usual spiritually uplifting harp-centred celtic roots music. Unfortunately, I lost my cherished vinyl copy when flooded a few years back...

Y brawd adds:

Gyda un cân mewn Cymraeg.

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 21, 2010

la Dusseldorf - la Dusseldorf

Applying a punk-inspired less is more drive to Neu!'s minimalist pop-meets-German experimentalism, La Dusseldorf rose to the heights of Europe's progressive rock scene of the late 70s.

Recorded in 1975, La Düsseldorf's self-titled debut effects something of a compromise between complementary Neu! aesthetics: Rother’s melodic atmospherics contrasted with Dinger's anarchic, noisier inclinations.

The opening track provides the template: built on driving beats and fleshed out with expansive synth colouring, the 13-minute "Düsseldorf" is a grand, pop-friendly homage to Dinger's hometown. Although its repetitive glide recalls Neu!'s signature motorik gruuve, there's something more playful and joyous about Dinger's approach here, especially at the moments when the vocals venture briefly into mock operatics and a glammy piano hammers away.

Oh, and lest y brawd forgets…


There were three great beats in the '70s: Fela Kuti's Afrobeat, James Brown's funk and Klaus Dinger's NEU!-beat.
Oddi wrth y brawd
ding dang dong

July 20, 2010

Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven - Godspeed You Black Emperor

A windfall for any fan of ambient pop, orchestral rock, space rock, or simply lush "kitchen sink" arrangements. Trademark structure present and correct - start out sparse and slow, build,build, build, crescendo - though in less predictable configurations than earlier releases. Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven is loaded with dynamics, unexpected sections, strong emotions and beauty.

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 17, 2010

The Payback - James Brown

There were three great beats in the '70s: Fela Kuti's Afrobeat, James Brown's funk and Klaus Dinger's NEU!-beat.
Oddi wrth y brawd
them cakes

July 16, 2010

Sowiesoso - Cluster

Oveshadowed by the earlier Zuckerzeit's chocolatey toy box melodies, and perennially muscled out of the limelight by Kraftwerk and the more recently name droppable Neu! (Oasis doing Neu! covers....I ask you...), Messrs. Moebius & Roedelius continued to plough a fertile kosmische furrow with Sowiesoso (1976). While maintaining a poppy edge, the power of this album lies in the more ambient pieces. The technology and simplistic drum programming make for a curious mixture of ancient yet fresh sounding (very) old school electronica. 

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 15, 2010

The Madcap Laughs Again - Various, Mojo Presents March 2010

Terrapin -  Field Music get things off to a flying start
No Good trying - J Mascis has been at the vaseline and mandrax again
Love You - The Besnard Lakes go all aquatic
No Man's Land - Race Horses speed by
Dark Globe - Michael Stipe is a whiney get
Here I Go - Hush Arbors miss the point
Octopus - Captain Sensible is a fan of Peachmooi
Golden Hair - Hope Sandoval and the Warm Intentions creep me out, nicely
Long Gone - Hawkwind play it safe
She Took a Long Cold Look - Skygreen Leopards come up trumps with best of breed
Feel - Cate Le Bon does Nico
If It's In You - Jennifer Gentle may be influenced by Syd
Late Night - Marc Almond is a true star (with Nijinsky's heart)
Dark Globe - Robyn Hitchcock does Bob Dylan

Oddi wrth y brawd
hello James

July 14, 2010

Vindicator [plus] - Arthur Lee

A long way from the frazzled, fragile beauty of Forever Changes, this slab of hard rock n' blues, with a soulful edge, confirms Lee was nothing if not a rocker at heart. All songs are strong and guitars invariably cranked up to the max. Churls might demur at the obvious debt to Cry of Love era Hendrix (that's First Rays of the New Rising Sun to you youngsters), and churls they'd be.

For increased pleasure, y brawd adds a clutch of winning acoustic versions culled from earlier Vindicator sessions and recently released on the uneven Love Lost. 

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 13, 2010

Zombie - Fela and Afrika 70


There were three great beats in the '70s: Fela Kuti's Afrobeat, James Brown's funk and Klaus Dinger's NEU!-beat.

Oddi wrth y brawd
observation is no crime

July 12, 2010

Long Distance Trip - Samsara Blues Experiment

Guest post by Welsh Connexion:
Samsara Blues Experiment are a Berlin based band. As you may infer from their name, SBE combine three essential ingredients in their musical home-tabbing machine: 1 dropper of raga, 2 of experimental freakout, both shaken and bonded with a blues fixing agent. Heady stuff. Retro-style heavy psych stoner jamming. More than a passing nod to the grand krautriffing tradition but with a pleasing postmodern twist. If you like Wooden Shjips, this will float your boat.
Y brawd adds:
As WC implies, these guys can't decide if they're pre-Animals Floyd, turn of the 70s Sabbath or Maggot Brained Funkadelic. They do have some fun trying to make up their minds, mind.
From the Welsh Connexion
come 'ed

July 11, 2010

Datblygu 1985 - 1995 - Datblygu

A word from Gruff Rhys, SFA, Esq:

Beginning with the aching pop standard “Y Teimlad” this collection gives us a glimpse of a band capable of anything. It seems to me that Datblygu are one of those bands whom standing upon their seedy pulpit hold up a mirror to the society they live in. A lazy comparison would be someone like Serge Ginsbourg [sic]. But that slimeball had 50 million heads to fill his mirror and bank account. David “the last communist in Europe (too skint to go to Cuba)” R. Edwards on the other hand communicates here to half a million Welsh speakers fucked on Thatcherism. This ever poignant work comes as a sonic and moral warning to a complacent generation of white hicks on coke looking for a welcome break on the third (motor) way to oblivion.
Well, the warning clearly went unheeded by the third way-ers, and we now have Lord Snooty and pals at the controls. (Oh, and a lazier comparison would be the Welsh Fall).

Gair gan Gruff Rhys, SFA, Esq:

Sylweddolodd David R. Edwards yn gynnar iawn ei fod yn fastard bach clyfar. Yn ffodus penderfynnodd rannu ei feddylfryd a pawb ohonom sy’n ceisio dadansoddi yster ein bodolaeth bler a’r hyn yr ydym yn ceisio cyflawni cyn mynd I’r bedd.
Her amhosibl yn gwneud cyfiawnder a Datblygu ar bapur. Felly lluchwch eich papurau newydd ach baneri i’r tan! Carwch eich cyd ddyn a dalier sylw i’r Sion Corn gwas pwmp petrol, gyrrwr tacsi ac athro oddi-mewn.
Check vid for proof of the flame and mordant wit in the Edwards’ belly and soul.

Oddi wrth y brawd
God bless the pedantic Welsh

July 10, 2010

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet & The Sinking of the Titanic - Gavin Bryars

Testimony that experimental and intellectually constructed music has the power to move. The two pieces here pack a sometimes overpowering emotional punch.

Gavin Bryars has worked within a variety of methodologies, including jazz, free improv, minimalism, avant-garde and neoclassicism. He was a founding member of the Portsmouth Sinfonia - an orchestra whose membership consisted of performers who “embrace the full range of musical competence” (There’s a euphemism in there somewhere). Sinfonia members have included erstwhile pal Brian Eno whose Obscure Records label put out several of Bryars’ works in the mid-70s including a recording of the Titanic piece here.

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971) has as its basis a recorded loop of a homeless man improvising a hymn of that name. On top of that loop, rich harmonies played by a live ensemble are built, always increasing in density, and spiritual impact before the gradually fading away.

The piece was first recorded for use in a documentary chronicle of street life in and around London’s Elephant and Castle. When later listening to the recordings, Bryars noticed the clip was in tune with his piano and that it conveniently looped into 13 bars.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism.
Quietly transcendental in equal measure is The Sinking of the Titanic (1969), an indeterminist work which allows the performers to take a number of sound sources related to the sinking of the RMS Titanic and make them into a piece of music. A perfectly poised use of Amazing Grace melodic motif against an ambient backdrop of chilly oceanic noises is heartbreaking and somehow uplifting.

Oddi wrth y brawd

July 09, 2010

Melody - Original Soundtrack Recording

And so, to end this brief run on kid related releases y brawd brings you a gem from 1971, Melody [aka S.W.A.L.K.]. Given a luke-warm initial reception in UK & US -  though a huge hit in Japan and, less explicably, Argentina and Chile - it has now graduated to bona fide cult classic status. Watch the trailer for the plot -  Pulp Fiction it ain't - but do seek out the full hit. Like many British films of the period it's thrilling in a low-key way to see character actors like Keith Barron, Roy Kinnear, and John “the Scaffold then much later Tiswas” Gorman do their thing. Naturally, Mark Lester irritates and the late Jack Wild excels in equal measure. (And a role in the Jack Wild biopic surely beckons for Brett Anderson.)

The music is mostly Bee Gees at their sugary (not, please note, saccharine) best: In the Morning; First of May; Melody Fair. Additonal lush orchestrated versions of same plus incidental spicks and specks courtesy of the Richard Hewson Orchestra. Boasts a well-chosen closer in Graham Nash's Teach Your Children.

Oddi wrth y brawd
Latimer... Ornshaw... Ornshaw... Ornshaw!

July 07, 2010

Not For Kids Only - Jerry Garcia & David Grisman

Of the many collaborations between these old timey old timers, this is the least po-faced. More relaxed in its own way than the freewheelin' Pizza Tapes. And all the better for it. Includes a lovely version of Elizabeth Cotten's Freight Train and an outstanding closer the trad. Shenandoah done as epic orchestral lullaby. If you ever wondered how Teddy Bear's Picnic would sound done Bourbon St style (damn fine), here's your chance. Like the tin says: Not For Kids Only (though if you have some little ones handy, they'll love this).

Oddi wrth y brawd
no bugs on me

July 06, 2010

For Little Ones - Donovan

The Ur-text for a generation acid folkies is Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day. For the more lysergically disposed the touchstone is ISB's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Pre-dating both of these essential releases is Donovan's two LP box set A Gift From a Flower to a Garden. Released as two separate albums in the US, there is a strong case to be made in favour of the second disc, For Little Ones, as the earliest archetypal wyrd folk outing. All the familiar tropes are present and correct: low fi acoustics; homespun feel; Carrollian whimsy & childhood nostalgia; back to simple country life; washed out morning after drowsy. After all, Vashti Bunyan's mythical caravan journey North was bound for Donovan's Scottish commune.

Donovan is a pretty unique 60s icon: absolutely huge in his day - up there with The Beatles and Dylan, no joke; a rack of top twenty singles - yet whose reputation never really recovered after the end of the 60s dream. Unlike other names wrapped up with the era, such as ISB and a host of lesser talents, Donovan has never been rehabilitated or "rediscovered". Shaun Ryder's brief attempt in the early 90s - bless - doesn't count. This is probably owing to the fact that he never actually went away or stopped recording. If he had upped sticks in the early 70s and gone off to a mountain top somewhere, there's no doubt he would now be a very hip name to drop and his music reckoned for what it is: unique and irresistible. Cast away doubt and preconceptions and tuck in to some Starfish On Toast.

Oddi wrth y brawd
hail atlantis

July 05, 2010

Shake Sugaree - Elizabeth Cotten

One of the ancients unearthed during the 60s folk boom - cf. Mississippi John Hurt and Doc Boggs - Elizabeth Cotten didn't commit her sweet country blues to vinyl until she was 66 years old. Her melodies and cadences are not unlike MJH and if anything are even more idiosyncratic: playing guitar and banjo left-handed, upside down and backward, with a picking style giving the bass strings a clear sound while working muted harmonics on the treble strings. Her vocals are often fragile-sounding and shaky. Don't be misled by the opening title track sung by her 12 year old grandchild.

This 2004 collection from Smithsonian Folkways is a revised reissue of her second 1965 LP, plus ten previously unreleased tracks. Awarded a Grammy Award in 1985, when she was 90 years old, she passed away in 1987. This is special.

Oddi wrth y brawd
till we meet again