Saturday, October 27, 2007

Not sure why I've been blogging so consistently (some might say "obsessively") over the last little while. It may have something to do with the fact that the bloggers I read consistently haven't been posting much recently. Somehow , I've had to fill the BLOGVOID!

I've also been looking a little further afield, going back to blogs I haven't read in months. As a result of this, I've decided to add an "Other Blogs" list to the sidebar here. Said list also features friends' blogs that aren't within the normal remit of this here blog. So, if you're interested in reading about the life of an aspiring Hollywood screenwriter or a highly accomplished user-interface geek, you know where to go.

You might also note that, under the Other Blogs list is a little counter which tells you how many visitors I've had since last Sunday. This little gizmo is linked to a web analytics service that also gives me some info on who's been stopping by and why. Turns out I get about a dozen visitors a day, mainly abstract electronica fans in mainland Europe, looking for free MP3s. And someone who did an AOL search for "Jeff Lynn is crap"!

Anyway, the point I'm getting to here is that the amount of time I've been spending thinking about and writing in this blog is in no way justified by the amount of people who are actually taking the time to read it. As a result, I'm taking a partial vow of blog silence. Basically I plan to blog less.

But I also plan to blog better. One of my big concerns is that my blogging recently has not been as diligent as it may have appeared. Sure, I've been posting a lot but most of it has been low on insight and high on embedded multi-media content. This is the kind of thing that's killing music, frankly - an overload of availability and a complete lack of context. So, my plan is to concentrate on writing less frequent but more substantial posts for the rest of the year.

For those few of you who may actually claim to give a rat's ass, there's still plenty of content in the archive for you to catch up on. To make it a little easier, I've provided a partial index of recent topics, below. Of course, the last time I did this, on the premise that I was going to lay off blogging for a while, I pretty much got right back on the horse. But this time I mean it.

Recent Topics
Computer Music

Philip K. Dick (Can't believe I forgot to write about Time Out of Joint!)
Top Five
Five More Novels

Butterfly Child
Techno Animal
Bark Psychosis

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Post-Rocktoberfest #s 6, 7, 8 and 9 - Bark Psychosis "All Different Things" 12", "Nothing Feels"12", "Scum" 12" and "Blue" 12"
It's always exciting when a new record store opens in town. So there we were the other night, enjoying a burrito on Kingsway, when Kris pointed into a small gallery and said: "You know there's a record store in there, right?" Lo and behold, at the back of the gallery, down a little staircase was Dandelion Records (presumably named in homage to John Peel).

The store is pretty well stocked and most of the inventory apparently comes directly from the proprietor's personal collection. Prominent items include some first German edition Can records, priced over the $100 mark. But there's plenty of affordable stuff too and it seems like the kind of place where one might find something completely random and extremely exciting.

So it was that I walked out of the place with four Bark Psychosis singles under my arm (after paying for them, obviously). I already had all the songs. Bark Psychosis are extremely well catered for when it comes to singles compilation CDs (there are three and I have two of them). Still, these 12"s were items that I simply couldn't say no to. Sure, you can probably find them in plenty of £1 bins in the UK but you just don't see them over here and they fetch a pretty penny on eBay.

"All Different Things" (1990)
A dark one, this. Showcasing the band's Swans influence but keeping things extremely restrained and spacious. Anger wells up throughout but always finds itself suppresse
d before things get out of hand. Tense stuff.

"Nothing Feels" (1990)
It's the Nick Drake influence that comes to the fore here. This single showcases two of the band's most straightforwardly lovely songs. The b-side "I Know" is one of my personal favourite Bark Psychosis moments and here it is for your streaming pleasure.

"Scum" (1992)
Their masterwork. "Scum" is 20-odd minutes of tension-and-release, not unlike the "All Different Things" 12" blown out of all proportion. Despite its length, "Scum" is incredibly simple and amounts to an essentially very concise distillation of millennial urban angst. The song is cut on one side of a 33rpm record, with the other side dedicated to an astonishingly lovely and chaotic etching. A must have for any serious UK post-rock fan. Seriously, seriously essential.

"Blue" (1994)
I think this was the last release by the original incarnation of Bark Psychosis. It came in the wake of their major label debut Hex utterly failing to capture the record buying public's imagination and is an anthem to what the British music press were calling "post-rave comedown". Musically, it's one of the band's most explicitly electronica-influenced tracks and lyrically it seems to ruminate over all manner of bitterness and disillusion: "Petrol station plastic people/Their expressions are fake/You're only as good as your last goddamn mistake". This is a very deep shade of blue indeed but - ironically enough - the record itself is pressed on milky white vinyl.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cat and Man
"There was a cat who lived on the place (not as a pet, but as co-owner); on rare occasions it came to the house and deigned to accept a handout. He had discovered that the cat's name (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche) was not the cat's name at all, but he had not told anyone this because he could not pronounce the cat's real name; he could only hear it in his head."
Robert A. Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Funny: the always reliable Cat and Girl gives us reason to chortle heartily (as already reported by DJ/Rupture).

Not sure Veronica Mars really warranted saving by the end, though. It would be charitable to say that the third season was "patchy" and there is every reason to believe that the fourth would have been total shit.

Anyone else noticed that Veronica (aka Kristen Bell) is now on not one but two rubbish network shows (Heroes and Gossip Girl)? How the mighty have fallen.

Speaking of which... Freaks and Geeks - now there's a show that was ended too soon. F'n'G just got better with every episode of it's one, solitary season. By the end, Apatow, Rogen et al had arrived at one of the most subtle and resonant pieces of comedy-drama ever to make it to the small screen. Such a shame they ended up making unfunny, reactionary horseshit like Knocked Up. Lest we forget...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Starsailor Released
I've been meaning to follow up on this post since picking up the recent vinyl re-issue of Tim Buckley's Starsailor. The ever reliable and wonderfully named Four Men with Beards label was responsible for making this particular 180g dream come true.

As far as I know, there are still no plans for a CD re-issue but I must admit to being out of the loop since taking the "long walk" from the record store. You'd think there'd be a lot of demand for a deluxe 2CD bonus track-infested version of Starsailor.

But I doubt most listeners care about that kind of thing any more. They'd probably rather just pay a wad of cash to download the album as a series of shitty sounding MP3s.

Anyway, while Starsailor remains (to the best of my knowledge) out of digital print, I don't suppose I have to feel too bad about allowing you to stream the album's second best track - "Monterey".

Christ what a song! "Under a loom of stars/In the vulgar cold" has to be the most evocative opening line of a song, ever. And things just get better from thereon in. "Monterey" has an incessant skyward trajectory that defies appropriate description.

So just listen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Well, there I was getting all excited/concerned about SeeqPod and it turns out that everyone else is getting all hot-under-the-collar about the magic of divShare. Thanks to Christopher O for pointing this out, by the way.

Seems like a good time to remind you that the very talented Oren Ambarchi is Vancouver bound. No excuse for missing this one, people. And just in case you want to know what you're in for, here's a song via the magic of divShare.

I can only suppose that Mr Ambarchi wouldn't mind me sharing this with you Flash-style for the purpose of promoting his show. I'm pretty sure I got this track from a Wire Tapper compilation and that isn't on any of his albums.

But I don't intend to make a habit of posting other people's music on this blog, without their permission. Maybe just the occasional tantalizing glimpse or rarity. Nothing anyone would feel the need to get upset about.

Anyhoo, here are the full details of that show:

Wednesday October 17

Gord Grdina (Vancouver) - 8pm
Nicolas Bragg (Vancouver) - 9pm

Oren Ambarchi (Australia) - 10pm

Bill Frisell (USA) - 11pm

Scotiabank Dance Centre,
677 Davie Street, Vancouver
Tickets $15/$10, available at Zulu Records and Scratch

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Post-Rocktoberfest # 5: Techno Animal - Re-entry
I recently used this here blog to praise the absurd persistence of Butterfly Child. That band's willingness to just keep going is truly heroic, simply because their time will almost certainly never come. For other UK post-rock movers and shakers, though, persistence has actually paid off, either in terms of finding an audience in a niche market (goth rock, electronic dance music, indie...) or simply by having the rest of the world catch up.

In these terms Kevin Martin of God, Ice, The Sidewinder, EAR and Techno Animal has pretty much hit the jackpot. Over the years, his various projects have found favour with a whole range of demographics - from goths to ravers to indie rockers. Moreover, his aesthetic - as epitomized in Martin-compiled compilations like Isolationism and Macro Dub Infection - has just recently started to seem very contemporary. Everything from hipster metal to dubstep contains distinctly Kevin Martin-esque overtones.

To my mind though, he's never topped the work he did in the original UK post-rock era. Re-entry, the second album by Techno Animal (a duo with Godflesh's Justin Broadrick) was released in 1995 on - get this - Virgin Records (who also put out Hex by Bark Psychosis!) It's a mammoth 2CD set of deliberately monotonous beats and narcotized dub textures.

Again, persistence is the key word here. Just making it through the entirety of Re-entry is something of an endurance test but it's worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. In particular, the 19-minute "Demodex Invasion" has to be one of the most brutally, intensely hypnotic pieces of music ever recorded.

Hell, everything Kevin Martin does is intense one way or another and it's usually pretty great too. Fans of his (excellent) recent work are strongly urged to investigate this album (along with God's The Anatomy of Addicition) to witness K Mart at his greatest and his most intense.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Yay! Computer Music
Well, rather unbelievably, the MOTU Ultralite seems to have solved all of my computer problems. No idea how or why this has happened but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth, eh? Or a $700 horse, in this case.

Either way, I'm suddenly building Max patches and making music like crazy. To celebrate this renewed activity, let's take a look at three abstract electronica releases that have really been doing it for me recently.

Giuseppe Ielasi - August (12K)
This is less dark and more computer-y than his last album but it's far from sterile. Over the last couple of years, strictly on the hush hush, Ielasi has been emerging as a musical talent to be reckoned with. You can pick it up via Smallfish.

Rosy Parlane - Jessamine (Touch)
Absolutely ravishing drone-work from this erstwhile Fennesz collaborator. Track three has the most devastating guitar noise build-up finale I've heard in ages. Seriously, take a listen.

Available at Forced Exposure.

M Rosner - Alluvial (Room 40)
More great stuff from Room 40 - a label that can do no wrong in my eyes. Buy it at Boomkat. Actually, you can probably get any of these items at any of the mail orders mentioned here and - if you live in Vancouver - they'll probably have them at Zulu too.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Highly Recommended
Kris has been on a couple of the trips to the States this year, leaving me at home to the tend to The Sneefler's every whim and fancy. Earlier in the year she went off to LA to visit friends and more recently she went to New York on business.

On each occasion, she managed to catch a live set by the rather wonderful Brooklyn experimental pop band High Places. On the second occasion, she also managed to pick up a copy of the band's fine and swanky new 7" picture disc. I commend it most highly. You can buy it here.

I tried to embed a track using Seeqpod but it wouldn't work, for some reason.
It wasn't even from the 7" but it would have given you a pretty good idea of the Noriko Tujiko-meets-Adventures in Stereo goodness that these kids have going on (obscure references, I know, cheers). Oh well, you'll have to take my word for it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Breaking News
Looks like you might not be able to download that KTL album after all.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Now I'm sure you've all figured out how much I like spending all my money on records. And surely you also know how much I fetishize vinyl, right? Well there have been a couple of releases recently that have raised the question "how far is too far" in regards to these predilections.

KTL - III (Or)
The latest release from the duo of Peter "Pita" Rehberg and Stephen O'Malley of Sunn0))) comes courtesy of Russell Haswell's Or label. It's a limited edition one-sided album housed in a thick card sleeve and pressed on heavyweight vinyl, the "blank" side of which is adorned with a Savage Pencil engraving. The whole thing is genuinely visually beautiful.

But boy is it expensive. That's fine as far as it goes but it's a shame given the fact that KTL III isn't going to be released in any other format. Therefore, to get "legal" access to this music, you have to have both the funds and the obsessive mindset of a fairly serious record collector.

This really is a shame because KTL III is by far the best thing they've done so far and it really deserves to be heard as widely as possible. Having said that, these things usually end up on illegal file-sharing networks the moment they're released, so perhaps it's not such a big deal.

3/4hadbeeneliminated - The Religious Experience (Soleilmoon)
A yes, my favourite Italian post-rock outfit. I've been waiting a while for these folks to bring something out on vinyl, so when this particular limited edition came up for pre-order, I jumped at the chance - in spite of the hefty asking price.

This one comes in a fragile hand-made sleeve. According to the label, said sleeve is supposed to be "delicately perfumed" or some such nonsense. In fact, it smells like it's been dipped in industrial strength toilet cleaner. The record itself is pressed on patterned white vinyl that makes it look somewhat like a giant peppermint. Cool, certainly but maybe a little gauche, no?

While I'm somewhat doubtful about whether this one was really worth the dosh as a collector's item, I certainly can't argue with the quality of the music. 3/4... have a distinctly spooky and pretty much unique sound - it's as if the whole album was recorded under the covers of a king-size bed.

For those of you who don't buy schmancy vinyl editions and aren't into the whole file-sharing deal, there is another option with this album. While, it's not actually available on CD, Soleilmoon did simultaneously release a "sister" CD to go with it, called Theology. If it's anything like as good as The Religious Experience then it's not to be missed.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Post-rocktoberfest # 4: Seefeel - Quique
Now I know for a fact that I've written about this before, at least in passing. Also, it's certainly on of the better known UK post-rock albums. Therefore, I'll just let the music speak for itself. Nor entirely sure how I feel about the morality of using SeeqPod to embed MP3s in one's blog but I love this song.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007



Has anyone seen this yet? Kinda interesting.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hey There Little Sunbeam
The Sneefler decides to celebrate a surprisingly sunny Thanksgiving by combining her two favourite pass-times: relaxing and violence.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Post-rocktoberfest # 3: Insides - Euphoria
Haven't I written about this before? Seems like I must have done but I dare say it bears repeating. This is a fantastic album that really should be more widely heard - if only because it's accessible enough for anyone to get into.

Insides were a boy-girl couple who splintered off from quirky Brighton-based avant rock group Earwhig. Insides seems to have been some sort of attempt to: (a) replace the angularity of Earwhig's sound with something more streamlined and sensual; (b) give the world far too much information about the couple's rather intense sexual relationship.

Like the very excellent Spoonfed Hybrid, Insides were signed to 4AD sub-label Guernica. Also like Spoonfed Hybrid they managed to combine a vaguely new-agey sound (chiming guitars, percolating synth arpeggios...) with an undercurrent of vague menace. The results, on Euphoria, give off a distinct whiff of obsessive sexual jealousy. Seductive stuff but also extremely claustrophobic.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fuck Computer Music!
Just kidding! But Holy Christ can you believe I'm still having the computer problems I described here? That was back in July and even then it felt like the whole debacle had been dragging on for a ridiculous amount of time.

Here's the crux of the problem: often, though irregularly, my computer will start receiving distortion and feedback to its audio in and/or internal mic. This is a drag but only really creates significant problems when doing live sampling in Max (which is usually the basis of my live performances).

I'm pretty sure this is not a Max problem, though. The problem occurs system-wide, even when I'm not using Max. It crops up in all applications that have an audio input and in the audio system preferences.
I've re-installed Max/MSP and done extensive debugging/simplification of my Max patches. It hasn't helped.

So the problem is system-wide. Fine. I reinstalled OSX and tried to calibrate the system to remove clashing sampling rates and/or corrupted audio preference files. No dice. Surely, then, it's a hardware problem.

Well, Apple were good enough to (eventually) agree to give me a new top-board and logic-board for my computer and... it's still no better! I'm going out to buy an external sound-card this afternoon but I don't honestly expect it to help and I'll probably end up returning it.

I've asked lots of people about this and consulted forums etc but I haven't found anyone who has had a similar experience or who could tell me what the problem might be. I don't expect to turn up anything at this stage but if anyone thinks they can help then PLEASE, PLEASE HELP ME!

In more positive computer music news, Cycling 74 just announced the forthcoming release of Max 5, which looks to be a major leap forward for the application's programming interface. It would be really exciting if this version of Max made it accessible to more musically (rather than technically) minded people. Honestly, such a thing could lead to a major musical revolution. Seriously!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Do Front
Noted Northwestern noisenik Daniel Menche is coming to Vancouver later this month. What with the upcoming Oren Ambarchi show, this is starting to look like the most exciting month for live music in some time. Mind you, that might just be indicative of how slim the pickin's have gotten.

Here are the details...
Western Front New Music Presents:

Daniel Menche with guest Chris Kelly
Friday, October 12, 2007, 8:00 pm

Western Front (303 East 8th Avenue, Vancouver)

Tickets $12 / $10

Friday, October 05, 2007

Milf Island!

Milf Island?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Post-Rocktoberfest #2: Butterfly Child - Ghetto Speak
You can't fault Butterfly Child for trying. Between 1991 and 1993 they managed to squeeze out three EPs and they've somehow succeeded in releasing a series of albums since then. They moved from Belfast, to London and finally to California, apparently. They may even still be going as the solo project of singer-songwriter Joe Cassidy.

All this is fairly amazing given the total critical and public indifference that has always greeted the band's releases. It's also rather puzzling as Cassidy's inspiration actually seemed to run out pretty early on. The first two albums - Onomatopoeia and The Honeymoon Suite - are fine records as far as bookish indie rock goes (they sound rather like The Sea and Cake) but all the real post-rock action is on those early EPs.

Butterfly Child were best known as proteges of AR Kane, alongside Papa Sprain (who were also from Belfast). This is worth mentioning here as Ghetto Speak sounds distinctly like a pristine, lighter-than-air and highly literate take on the breathless avant electropop of AR Kane's epic I.

The EP is packed with breezy, intertwining synth tones and digital eruptions but Joe Cassidy's voice is what really takes things to the next level. Cassidy, at his best, has the assured, poetically musical delivery of a good (though extremely fey) rapper. Possibly, that's why he chose to name this EP the way he did. Whatever the case, Ghetto Speak is a cryptic, concise delight.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Post-Rocktoberfest #1: Main - Motion Pool
Since Fennesz's classic Endless Summer, there seems to have been a not totally insignificant niche market for heavily processed guitar abstraction. Oren Ambarchi's (much deserved) growing profile is currently the most visible manifestation of this trend.

This puts an interesting perspective on the route that Robert Hampson took after the dissolution of his late-80s trance-rock band Loop. In leaping into droney, beatless soundscapes, Hampson really was ahead of the guitar-reinvention curve. It's only right then, that the Fat Cat label acknowledged Hampson's pioneering spirit by releasing a Fennesz/Loop split 12" a few years back.

The change from Loop's minimalist rock to the pure drone of Main's later work was actually a smoother transition than I'd realized until recently, when I picked up a couple of early Main records. The Hydra Calm 12", in particular, is basically a cyborg take on Loop's more organic burn and churn.

But it was with the astonishing triple 12" set Motion Pool that Hampson really added something significant to the UK post-rock canon. As is often the case with bands, Main's music was at its most original and compelling during that awkward "becoming" stage of flux and uncertainty.

Motion Pool is as physically insistent as anything Loop produced but sounds utterly inorganic - like a skeletal, digitally reanimated version of rock music. Even though this is certainly a guitar-heavy record, Hampson's vocals are the only explicitly human presence and even they sound utterly alienated; drained of humanistic warmth.

Of course, in the post-human discourse of 90s futurism, this kind of aesthetic was something that could be embraced without fear. Now that we know where digital technology was taking us all along (the hellish tedium of Facebook) it might all seem somewhat gothy and overwrought.

And yet the power of the music remains. There's nothing else quite like Motion Pool and it's certainly an essential addition to your doubtless-growing UK post-rock collection.