Monday, December 01, 2008

Top Ten of the Year 2008
First of all, here's the good news: This end-of-the-year post is huge! Epic! Plenty of "online content" for you to chew on, lots of record-buying recommendations and even a few free MP3 downloads, for those of you who make it to the end. My twin commitments to (a) typing this blog as hastily as possible and (b) proofreading it not one bit know no bounds.

Now, here's the bad news: This will be the last ever post on The Blogglebum Cage. I'm sure this will be heartbreaking news for the (statistically-proven) two dozen people who visit the blog every day but I need time to work on other - dare I say more important - projects. I was laid off from work a couple of weeks ago so, in the short term, in need time and energy to devote towards job hunting. In the long term, I also want to spend more of my computer time making music and less writing about music.

Talking of music, here's the more bad news: It's been another generally sucky year for new music. You may notice that I spend a considerable amount of this post telling you what I don't like about my favourite Albums of the Year. That can't be a good sign.

The real problem for me this year has been the lack of surprises. Most of my top records of the year came from favourite artists, doing what they do very well, resolutely refusing to raise the stakes. Maybe it's a bit unreasonable to expect the shock of the new in 2008 but I still want to be challenged, confounded and amazed.

So, for what it's worth, here is the final Blogglebum Cage end-of-year list, plus a few of the usual bonus features. Take a good look at these Michael because it's the last time. (Actually, I may return to blogging in 2010 but who knows if there'll even be such a thing as blogs that far in the future!)

Before I get started, a few things about the format of this year's list should be made clear:
  1. The Top Ten Albums of the Year list and the Bubbling Under lists are in rough order of preference
  2. The Other Notable Releases list is in alphabetical order
  3. The format that I've noted for each release is the format I happen to have it in - some of the CDs I list are or will be available on vinyl
  4. I've tried to stick strictly to 2008 releases but if you notice some stuff from last year creeping in there... well, fuck you, I don't care!
  5. I haven't done a Songs of the Year list but I have flagged up a few particular favourites along the way
  6. I haven't includes my own brilliant 2008 album (connect_icut, They Showed Me the Secret Beaches) in the list as I naturally assume it will be at the top of all the other end-of-year lists I read

Now, without further ado...

Top Ten Albums of the Year

Fennesz - Black Sea LP and CD (Touch)
(also, Transition 7")

Did I just say "favourite artists, doing what they do very well, resolutely refusing to raise the stakes"? Well, this is exactly what I'm talking about. After almost five years of waiting, what do we get from Christian Fennesz's new solo album? We get a really, really great Fennesz album. We get the Album of the Year. And we get nothing!

You might imagine the fact that Black Sea is simultaneously my Album of the Year and A Slight Disappointment is a function of unreasonable expectations. Fennesz is a certifiable genius and he hasn't released a solo album since Venice in early 2004, so - as a long-time fan - I was expecting something pretty mind-blowing.

In fact, on these terms, Black Sea isn't disappointing at all. It's a large-scale triumph: monumentally beautiful, massively brilliant. It's the work of an incredibly talented and original musician at the absolute top of his game. It's the best damn album that anyone has put out this year. So, what's the problem?

Well, for an artist who speaks a pretty abstract musical language, Fennesz has a remarkably high public profile. Since "Transit", his collaboration with David Sylvian on Venice, not to mention the distinct pop leanings of his masterwork Endless Summer, Fennesz has seemed poised to tighten up his act and make a crossover album that would introduce a whole swathe of the music-listening public to an entirely new world of sonic wonders.

It probably seems perverse for me to wish this kind of crossover success on Fennesz. But I'm still stuck on an idea the British music press drummed into me as a teenager: that to be relevant, "alternative" music has to raid the over-ground and change the world, at least a little. In the post-grunge Internet age, this kind of thinking is pretty much redundant. That's a fact but I can't help feeling it's by no means an inevitable fact or that it describes an entirely desirable state of affairs.

In any case, Fennesz has not spent the last half-decade crafting a world-changing avant pop masterpiece. Instead, he's simply been trying to make the best damn Fennesz album he can. And while Black Sea is unlikely to add anything substantially new to Fennesz's body of work or indeed his fan-base, it is going to give his existing fans an enormous amount of pleasure.

It's a remarkably focused encapsulation of all that he has achieved since his 1995 debut EP Instrument. It's a series of long-form pieces that marry the most reflective elements of the last two Fennesz albums to the more abrasive abstraction of his earlier releases. If I had to flag a single track up as a representative standout, I'd point you in the direction of the gorgeous "Perfume for Winter".

So anyway, while Fennesz isn't trying to take on the mainstream, it would be ridiculous to say that Black Sea isn't ambitious and it would be an outrage to argue that Fennesz's ambitions are modest. This is a Big Album, in absolutely the best sense.

The Transition 7" is more of the same and an essential companion to this most essential of albums. I haven't heard the new one-sided LP on Table of the Elements yet but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say it's probably pretty good.

The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent LP (Universal)
Last year's Reformation Post TLC is widely considered to be the Worst Fall Album Evar and while it's no Are You Are Missing Winner it's certainly a hard record to defend. Seems like Mark E Smith has now strayed so far off the rails (witness his unreadable autobiography) that any album attempting to catch him in the raw is doomed to be a more-or-less un-listenable shambles.

Thank goodness, then, that Imperial Wax Solvent is a distinctly digital studio construction. Smith needs someone to tie up his loose ends more than ever these days and - even then - things can still go horribly awry (witness his unreadable, ghost-written autobiography called Renegade for fuck's sake - must have taken them seconds to come up with that title).

Luckily, the various producers and engineers (including Grant Showbiz and Andi Toma from Mouse on Mars) assisting Smith on Imperial Wax Solvent have done a wonderful job, crafting a tight set of quintessentially Fall avant rockers. This is probably the best Fall album since The Unutterable and it's probably no coincidence that it's also the most electronic-sounding Fall album since that particular late-period classic. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who though that Smith's underrated collaboration with Toma in Von Sudenfed represented the only valid way forward for the great man.

Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna LP (The Social Registry)
Like Fennesz, Gang Gang Dance have roots in experimental abstraction and a potentially bright future introducing mainstream listeners to the roller-coaster thrills of the avant garde. Saint Dymphna comes much closer than Black Sea to being the perfect storm of pop and pandemonium that I've been craving but it still sounds rather hesitant or - at least - a little too content to simply do its thing.

Much of Saint Dymphna is taken up with twinkly digital synth jams that add nicely to the overall flow of the album but just don't kick ass like they should. When Gang Gang get punchy, though, they pretty much lay waste to the competition. "Princes" - featuring grime MC Tinchy Stryder - and the Kate Bush-esque "House Jam" both deserve a mention in any reasonable Songs of the Year list.

Portishead - Third 2LP (Universal)
This was a good year for long-awaited returns. My Blood Valentine's return to the live arena was undoubtedly the most significant musical event of the 21st century (so far). It would have been pretty hard to top that but the arrival of a new Portishead album also represented a pretty significant event for those of us who came of age in the '90s.

Third - it has been said - is Portishead's Kid A. That may be a rather trite thing to say about a 1990s alt-fave releasing their most experimental album to date but it's really not too wide of the mark. Like Kid A, this album sees a popular act taking on a range of left-field influences whilst simultaneously boiling their own unique musical language down to its bare essentials. For sheer audacity alone, the Spartan "Machine Gun" would have to be high up in my Singles of the Year list.

alva noto - Unitxt 2X12" (Raster Noton)
Not long ago, post-Oval computer music seemed like the most embarrassingly uncool musical thing imaginable. But the efforts of a few diehards kept the flame alive during those lean times and 2008 became the year that glitch returned to okay-to-like status. The fact that this all happened remarkably quickly is extremely validating for those of us who kept the faith. On the other hand, it might just be a reflection of the fact that today's listeners want to dabble in a little of everything, without committing themselves to anything for too long.

Whatever... The fact that people are paying attention to Carsten Nicolai again is cause for celebration. The really exciting thing, though, is the fact that Nicolai - aka alva noto - is producing some of his most compelling work to date. On Unitxt, noto funnels the sound of raw digital data into viciously clinical grooves. Heard on the beautifully cut vinyl edition, this is a pretty-much perfect mix of the digital uncanny and good old-fashioned physicality.

Astral Social Club - Model Town in Field of Mud LP (Textile)
Have I mentioned that I put an album out this year? Oh yeah, it was the fourth connect_icut album, it was called They Showed Me the Secret Beaches, it had a really cool cover, it was critically acclaimed and - of course - nobody bought it. I couldn't be more proud of Secret Beaches but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to top it and - in any case - the fiscal effects of putting out deluxe LPs that don't sell are becoming a bit too brutal for me to stomach.

Luckily, there's always Astral Social Club. Model Town in Field of Mud is the sound of the post-Sun City Girls free-rock underground rising to the challenge of digital technology. It's a joyful riot of noise and melody, chaos and structure. It sounds kind of like my stuff and I like it a lot.

Beequeen - Sandancing CD (Important)
(also Sandancing Demos 10")
The ongoing transformation of Beequeen from sub-:zoviet*france: dark ambient industrialists to shadowy craftsmen of finely-wrought nocturnal song-scapes is one of the most marvellously confounding stories in recent musical history. Like Ownliness and The Body Shop before it, this album mixes post-rock, glitch, jazz, pop and folk to genuinely sexy effect.

The Sandancing Demos 10" makes a worthwhile appendix, presenting the finely crafted tunes of the album as a set of beguilingly off-the-cuff lo-fi sketches.

Restiform Bodies - TV Loves You Back CD (Anticon)
If hip-hop is redundant in 2008, doesn’t that make post-rap beyond redundant? Honestly, there are dozens of reasons to hate TV Loves You Back: the over-convoluted rhyming; the “ironic” '80s pop sounds; the token splashes of smarty-pants electronica; the lapses into dumb-as-fuck puerility; the unforgivable misogyny; the constant harping on about the evils of mass-media consumerism; the "zany" photo shoots...

And yet I keep coming back to it. How could something so hard to like be so hard not to love? More than likely, it's just a beautiful mystery but if I had to hypothesize a couple of scientific explanations, I'd go with: (a) complicity and (b) realization.

Complicity, then. The fact that TV Loves You Back constitutes an unrelenting 45-minute attack on the corrosive influence of TV and consumer culture could - and to some extent does - make it bit of a wearing listen. The thing that makes it bearable is that it's a story told from the outside moving in. Structured as a true concept album, it starts with third-person hectoring and moves inexorably towards first-person despair. The impression one is left with is that Restiform Bodies genuinely love TV - it's themselves they can't stand. I couldn't disagree more with the PopMatters review of this album - there's no distance here; no judgement. There's complicity.

Then, realization. Restiform Bodies have been waaayyy off the radar for years, so they've had plenty of time to craft a tight set of songs. And holy crap have they ever succeeded! The lyrics are incredibly dense with horrifically vivid imagery, the tunes are insanely catchy and the songs are all ingenious multi-part constructions. Nothing is meaningless here and nothing is left to chance. "Opulent Soul" is the Song of the Year and "Interactive Halloween Bear" isn't far behind.

In fact, this might have been in the running for Album of the Year if it wasn't for all that stuff that I just can't forgive - not least the icky (ironic?) misogyny of "A Pimp-Like God". If these guys could stop thinking with their dicks, they'd probably take over the world.

Rafael Toral - Space Elements Vol. 1 LP (TAIGA)
The Space Programme is surely the most conceptually ambitious thing going in experimental music right now. As a man who made his name in the '90s purveying ear-pleasing guitar abstraction, Rafael Toral would be forgiven for wanting a piece of the post-Fennesz pie. Instead, he's simultaneously burrowing into the roots of electronic music and launching his considerable imagination into the cosmos.

Toral's Space albums meditate upon the sonic absences that link John Cage, modern jazz and outer space itself, mixing hot-wired electronics with free improvisation in the context of a very specific High Modernist aesthetic. Toral is fiercely serious about this stuff and while the results may initially sound like your dad's idea of experimental music, attentive listening reveals a fundamentally new music characterized by an ornate, otherworldly beauty.

Space Elements Vol. 1 is the Space Programme's most ambitious mission so far, almost orchestral in its large-scale realisation, totally admirable in every way and a great listen to boot.

Russell Haswell - Second Live Salvage 2LP (Editions Mego)
Like the alva noto album, this is a beautifully cut two-record set that adds a distinct physicality to that most virtual of genres - computer music. Russell Haswell is a bona fide sound artist - his work mostly consists of site-specific installations and performances and is not really designed for home listening. Haswell's Live Salvage albums compound this fact by presenting documentary-style live recordings as his most high-profile commercially available releases.

From a purely sonic standpoint, it's an approach that works wonders. Like his sometime collaborator Florian Hecker, Haswell is a hardcore proponent of academic-grade music software. Again like Hecker, he uses this definitively cerebral sound source to unleash an astonishingly visceral sound, the elemental power of which is truly transcendent. It makes sense that, to facilitate the transformation from bits-and-bytes to true, air-shaking sonic chaos, Haswell has to situate his music in a room. Heard on headphones, straight from the hard-drive of Haswell's laptop, this stuff wouldn't have half the force it does.

Second Live Salvage is sourced entirely from audience recordings of Haswell performances. The sound quality is variable but none of the recordings take the edge off Haswell's raw power - quite the opposite, one suspects. This is the sound of computer music getting out of the ether and bringing the house down.

Bubbling Under

Can't - Private Time Two LP (Weird Forest)
Jessica Rylan - aka Can't - has more than a little in common with Russell Haswell: both artists seem to command a great deal of respect in the legitimate art world; both deal in an unusually nuanced version of harsh noise/power electronics; and both released albums with really awesome cover art this year.

There are differences too. If anything, Rylan's noise is even more visceral than Haswell's, particularly on this album. And whereas his work is presented as an imposingly cerebral/Apollonian version of extreme music, hers is more openly personal and cathartic. This is mirrored in the fact that whereas Haswell's music is produced by high-level software applications, Rylan primarily uses her own voice, run through an array of homemade synthesizers.

Rylan's 2005 album New Secret (which mistakenly found its way into my 2006 top ten) cloaked confessional lyrics in a suffocating blanket of modulated distortion. Private Time Two, by contrast, is sharp and shocking. Kris, who has remarkable tolerance for harsh noise, openly proclaimed it to be "a bit much".

In any case, it's hard to deny the uniqueness of Rylan's artistic voice, the clarity of her execution or her remarkable range. Private Time Two encompasses ornate noise sculptures, Jandek-style bummer folk, twisted cabaret numbers and no-holds-barred primal scream therapy. It's one of those albums you won't listen to every day but when you're in the mood for it, nothing else will hit the mark.

The Bug - London Zoo CD (Ninja Tune)
(also King Midas Sound - "Cool Out" 12")
Not quite the mind-bomb I was hoping Kevin Martin would drop this year and insanely expensive on vinyl, this nevertheless featured some of the fiercest beats of 2008. "Fuckaz" featuring the spaceape is among my Songs of the Year.

If London Zoo represents a partially successful attempt to add some light and space to Martin's signature aesthetic, including "Cool Out" - released on Hyperdub under his King Midas Sound moniker - would definitely have upped the hit-rate. Roger Robinson's ambiguously heavenly vocal provides the perfect foil for Martin's heavyweight beats - just as Paul St. Hilaire's has done on past projects – making “Cool Out” one of the essential Singles of the Year.

High Places - 03.07 - 09.07 and High Places CDs (Thrill Jockey)
Okay, so this Brooklyn duo may be the poor person's Gang Gang Dance but that's not such a bad thing to be in 2008. It's hard to choose between the two album's they released this year: The singles collection 03.07 - 09.07 has better tunes but the self-titled album proper has quite a bit more oomph in the sonics.

Various Artists - Spire Live: Fundamentalis LP (Touch)
(also Fennesz/Jeck/Matthews - Amoroso 7")

This collection of live recordings documenting the Touch label's Spire series of church organ concerts presents a remarkably coherent aesthetic statement, which is as beautiful as it is imposingly monolithic. The 7" provides a nice addition, although it doesn't catch Fennesz on top form.

Lawrence English - Kiri no Oto CD (Touch)
Another Touch release from what turned out to be a fantastic year for the veteran UK label. This one presents heavyweight digital drone from the Australian fellow behind Room40 recordings. "Allay", in particular is an absolutely stunning piece of minimalist impressionism, worthy of the great Ekkehard Ehlers.

Other Notable Releases

Aerosol Constellations/Born Without Bones - split one-sided LP
Aerosol Constellations are the duo of Vancouver weird punks behind the already-legendary Fake Jazz events. They trade in :zoviet*france:-style drift and they may just be the best band out of Vancouver right now. Most of their output comes in the form of hand-packaged CDRs but - for those of you who just have to have some wax - they've also put out this splendid and highly desirable item.

Oren Ambarchi - Destinationless Desire 7" and A Final Kiss on Poisoned Lips one-sided LP
Ambarchi continued to go from strength to strength this year, with these two releases featuring some of his best work to date. The 7" is more-than-usually electronic-sounding and samples Fairport Convention. The one-sided LP includes part of his stunning 2007 show at the Vancouver New Music Festival.

Basic Channel - BCD2 CD
Of course, I have all the 12"s but this CD represents a considerably more affordable way to learn about how Basic Channel came to define the sound of minimal techno. The 17 minutes and 45 seconds of "Inversion" are worth the asking price alone.

James Devane - James Devane free download
This probably became a bit redundant the moment an actual Fennesz album got released but if you can't get enough guitar'n'granular drift then this is well worth the no asking price. Get it from Bremsstrahlung Recordings.

Empty Love and Les Beyond - Wedding cassette
Slightly biased here, as Empty Love is the fellow who put out the first connect_icut CD. Still, it's hard to deny that there's something special in this marriage of EL's deliberately stark and cold analogue drones to Les Beyond's US post-rock-style guitar chimes. I put it down to the fact that the two elements come just close enough to gelling, without ever become too cosy. An uneasy wedded bliss.

Kellarissa - Flamingo CD
One of two great 2008 albums featuring ex-members of P:ano, my all-time second favourite Vancouver indie rock act (after The Beans). An undeniably unique mix of synth pop, Finnish folk, Juana Molina-style live-looping and dub FX.

kode 9 - "Konfusion" 12"
“Konfusion" is pretty much business as usual, which is no bad thing coming from kode 9. Shackleton may be ahead of him in the avant dubstep sweepstakes but this should give kode 9's fans nothing to complain about. In fact, "Konfusion" is probably the best single track he's given us since "Backwards".

Machinefabriek - Huiswerk 7"
It's more-or-less impossible to keep up with the prodigious output of post-Fennesz computer musician Rutger Zuyderveldt aka Machinefabriek. Still, everything I've heard by him this year has been... worth hearing, at the very least. For a bite-size sampler, you could do much worse than this 7" on Vancouver's very excellent Ketchup Cavern label.

Stephan Mathieu - Radioland CD
Radioland is collection of heavenly music from one of the true glitch gods; shortwave radio transmissions channelled through an array of Max/MSP delays in a manner that recalls Keith Fullerton Whitman's masterful Playthroughs. Mathieu saves the best for last here - the album's final track "Prolog i Himmel" starts with a landslide of granular detritus before settling into a gorgeous plainsong-like chant, leaving vapour trails of drone in its wake.

Daniel Menche - Body Melt LP
While most this Portland artist's work seems to fit easily with the West Coast “posinoise” sound defined by the likes of Yellow Swans and John Wiese, Body Melt is something of a departure, being based around analogue synth drones and Native American percussion. There's far less distortion here than you might expect but this is a primal and intense sound experience nonetheless. Imagine a post-punk version of early Popol Vuh.

No Kids - Come Into My House LP
The other great post-P:ano album of the year. This time, a smarty-pants pop confection, sure to delight fans of Arthur Russell and Scritti Politti.

Popol Vuh - "Nachts: Schnee (Mika Vainio Remix)"/"Aguirre 1 (Haswell and Hecker Remix)" 12"
What with the Daniel Mench album and all, this was clearly the year that purveyors of abrasive electronica discovered the charms of Florian Fricke's new age krautrock ensemble Popol Vuh. The fact that this 12" came out on Editions Mego (not to mention red vinyl) meant that it was probably the 2008 release that was most accurately niche-marketed to me personally. Is there any chance of getting a whole album of this stuff?

Arthur Russell - Love is Overtaking Me CD
While this is a collection of highly obscure rarities, it actually combines some of Arthur Russell's most conventional songs. As such, it's not all gold - there's some sub-Van Morrison blue-eyed soul that is decidedly disposable. Still, when the tracks concentrate on integrating ideas from folk, electro-pop and the avant garde, the results are often stunning. "Eli" is droning song about a dog and it's worthy of Russell's classic World of Echo. His orchestrated version of the traditional "Goodbye Old Paint" beats Van Dyke Parks at his own game.

Shackleton/Mordant Music - "El Din"/"Olde Wobbly" 10"
This is an absolutely stunning split single of haunted dancehall numbers. Showcasing Shackleton's world-beating avant dubstep and Mordant's hauntological techno at their very best, this certainly ranks as one of the Singles of the Year.

Sick Buildings - Mains Frequency Flicker 3" CDR
This Vancouver noise artist is moving ever closer to pure conceptual sound art. Mains Frequency Flicker provides a marvellously concise encapsulation of the Sick Buildings concept.

Chris T-T - Capital CD
T-T is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves. As expected, Capital is a mixed bag of shear brilliance and really bad artistic decisions but the best moments are very, very good indeed. Much better than anything Billy Bragg's done in about two decades, anyway.

Various Artists - Emergency Room Vol. 1 LP (Grotesque Modern/Nominal)
This is a great overview of Vancouver's world-renowned "weird punk" scene. While it focuses on the scene's more conventional no wave-influenced band's - including my personal favourite, Twin Crystals - this is a record that finds room for the abstract sounds of the aforementioned Sick Buildings.

Two New Mixes

Not Me: The Acid Folk Remix Project
Here's my extra-special Christmas gift to you. Okay, so the final tracklisting is not ready at the time of publishing but the Soundcloud players below will grow organically as new songs are added throughout December. This is the place to check for Acid Folk Remix Project updates. Email me if you want a CDR copy of the finished product.

Side A:
1. Chris Mastheim - "Winter is Blue" (Vashti Bunyan cover)
2. Anne Briggs - "Living by the Water (Not Me Extended Remix by connect_icut)"
3. Comus - "The Bite (Not Me Remix by Esperik Glare)"
4. connect_icut - "Cruel" (based on "Cruel Sister" by The Pentangle and "The Cruel Mother" by Shirley Collins)

Side B:
1. Skullfucker - "Evil Island Home" (Kevin Coyne cover) [Added December 19th]
2. The Luminaries - "I Would Not Let You Drown" (based on "Sweet Child" by The Pentangle)
3. Steeleye Span - "Rogues in a Nation (Not Me Extended Remix by connect_icut)"
4. The Watersons - "Christmas is Now Drawing Near Drawing Near at Hand (Not Me Remix by Gunshae)" [Added December 17th]

Sam's Mix for Winter 2008/9
Available only as a hard-copy CDR for friends and family. Email me if you want a copy (I haven't actually burned any yet but I will, prob'ly). Here's what you'll get:

1. The Fall - "Tommy Shooter"
2. Twin Crystals - "No Clinics"
3. Kellarissa - "Flamingo"
4. Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron and Fred Squire - "Flaming Home"
5. Machinefabriek with Soccer Committee - "Di-o-day"
6. High Places - "
The Storm"
7. Gang Gang Dance with Tinchy Stryder - "Princes"
8. Restiform Bodies - "Opulent Soul"
9. The Bug with the spaceape - "Fuckaz"
10. Shackleton - "The Rope Tightens"
11. Ricardo Villalobos - "Minimoonstar"
alva noto - "U_08-1"
13. Fennesz - "Perfume for Winter"
14. Lawrence English - "Allay"
15. Stephan Mathieu - "Prolog i Himmel"

Alright then, that's yer lot - bringing another epic Top Ten post (and five years of The Blogglebum Cage) to a close.

Additions: 23rd December
In the last few days, I’ve added two new tracks to the Acid Folk Remix Project play-lists:
  1. The Watersons – “Christmas is Now Drawing Near at Hand (Not Me Remix by Gunshae)” [Incredible re-imagining from Vancouver’s ambient masters Gunshae]
  2. Skullfucker – “Evil Island Home” [Hair-raising lo-fi outsider folk reading of the Kevin Coyne classic, coutesy of the mysterious Skullfucker]
Looks to me like volume one of The Project is now finished. Look out for volume two in December 2009.

Also, over the last couple of weeks I have discovered the following (excellent) 2008 releases:
• Fennesz- June
Fennesz/Dafeldecker/Brandlmyr – ‘Til the World’s Blown Up…
• Flight of the Conchords - s/t
• Lau Nau - Nukkuu
Peter Rehberg – Songs for GV
• Shackleton - Soundboy's Suicide Note
• Tape - Luminarium
• Noriko Tujiko – Trust
• Noriko Tujiko/Lawrence English/John Chantler – U
• James Yorkston – When the Haar Rolls In

Some other lists worth viewing:
Tower of Sleep
The Decibel Tolls
Raven Sings the Blues
And You May Find Yourself
Jon Dale

One thing I've noticed: A lot of album's that received tepid reviews upon their releases have been showing up in tons of lists (Gang Gang Dance and The Bug spring to mind).

(Small, informal) party at my place, New Year's Day! Email for details.

RIP Davy Graham.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: Aaargh!
Things are not going according to plan around here. BooMP3 has now been decidedly dysfunctional for about four days, so I'm trying out this thing called Soundcloud, which I discovered via Ljud.

At the moment, I can only upload five of the Acid Folk Remixes but if it goes well, I'll add more when I can and replace all those BooMP3 players with Soundcloud players. Hopefully, BooMP3 will have come back to life
by the time you read this and you can discount the whole thing. But just in case...

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: Silence, Go Boom!
I've replaced the DivShare play-list with a series of BooMP3 players. Let us never speak of it again. Here are the tracks we have so far. More to come soon. Prob'ly.

Chris Mastheim - "Winter is Blue"

Anne Briggs - "Living by the... (Remix)"

Comus - "The Bite (Remix)"

connect_icut - "Cruel"

The Luminaries - "I Would Not Let..."

Steeleye Span - "Rogues... (Remix)"

[Additional note: If the BooMP3 players don't appear, please click here. Thanks.]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: Spy Versus I
So, I was at the office this morning, downloading Chris Mastheim’s version of “Winter is Blue” when that ol’ devil DivShare dumped some major-ass spy-ware onto my work PC, practically crippling the poor thing.

DivShare has been getting constantly sketchier over the last year and this was the last straw. Therefore, as soon as I have time, the Acid Folk Remix Project DivShare play-list will be replaced with something more humane.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: Blue Christmas
Nick Krgovich of No Kids (formerly P:ano) has allowed me to add his lo-fi version of Vashti Bunyan's "Winter is Blue" to
the DivShare play-list. If he can find me the original multi-track cassette, I might even get a shot a doing a bona fide remix of this one.

Nick's "Winter is Blue" originally appeared a few years back, on a Christmas-special CDR called "I Come on All Ye" that he released under the name Chris Mastheim. I'm not making this up. The first song was called "Midnight Mass Ass". Well worth snagging a copy, if you can track one down.

More good things of this nature to come, hopefully.

Chris Mastheim - "Winter is Blue"

[Note: The DivShare play-list that was originally embedded in the Acid Folk Remix Project posts has been replaced by a series of BooMP3 players.]

[Additional note: If the BooMP3 players don't appear, please click here. Thanks.]

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: Rogues Return
I've done a new, extended mix of "Rouges in a Nation" and added it to
the DivShare play-list . I've also removed my rather sub-par mixes of The Pentangle's "Lyke-Wake Dirge" and "Let No Man Steal Your Time". That leaves the play-list at five tracks in 35 minutes. The rest is up to you. Only five remixing weeks left 'til Christmas!

Steeleye Span - "Rogues... (Remix)"

[Note: The DivShare play-list that was originally embedded in the Acid Folk Remix Project posts has been replaced by a series of BooMP3 players.]

[Additional note: If the BooMP3 players don't appear, please click here. Thanks.]

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: The Living End?
Well, the good new is that my external hard-drive seems to have come back to life. But I never did find that song. To make up for the loss, I've come up with a new version of my Anne Briggs remix. I may do even more work on this one at some point (Kris says it needs to be "way more fucked up") but I'm pretty pleased with the current version, for the time being. Eight-and-a-half minutes of folky warbling and granular synthesis. Top that!

Anne Briggs - "Living by the... (Remix)"

[Note: The DivShare play-list that was originally embedded in the Acid Folk Remix Project posts has been replaced by a series of BooMP3 players.]

[Additional note: If the BooMP3 players don't appear, please click here. Thanks.]

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: More Pentangling? Shirley Some Mistake!
So, I found another one of those acid folk-sampling old connect_icut songs. This one’s called “Cruel” and it probably includes elements of The Pentangle’s “Cruel Sister” along with parts lifted from “The Cruel Mother”, as performed by Shirley Collins. I say “probably” because the definitive facts are lost in the mists of time.

"Cruel" has been added to
the DivShare play-list . Turns out it’s a pretty good choon – kind of a cross between alva noto and The Third Eye Foundation, which makes sense. Goodness knows how it ended up getting left off Moss.

There was another, similar song that I was working on around the same time. It was called “Rake” and it sampled various versions of “Reynardine”. I was scouring my external hard-drive for it just the other night when a baffling technical failure led the ol' Mac to start denying said drive’s very existence. “Rake” may be lost for good, along with a host of other connect_icut rarities.

Luckily, nobody gives a rat’s ass.

connect_icut - "Cruel"

[Note: The DivShare play-list that was originally embedded in the Acid Folk Remix Project posts has been replaced by a series of BooMP3 players.]

[Additional note: If the BooMP3 players don't appear, please click here. Thanks.]

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: Pentangling
Here is the promised cavalcade of Pentangle remixes. I'd already come up with a rough mix of "Lyke-Wake Dirge" when Jesse Simon - aka The Luminaries - told me about a track he'd done some time ago, based on "Sweet Child".

That, in turn, reminded me of some acid folk-sampling connect_icut tracks created around the time I was working on Moss, one of which was largely based on a Pentangle recording. Amazingly, said tracks were no longer on the ol' hard drive. It was only after considerable digging that I was able to track the Pentangle one down on a CDR titled Last October? Others are still missing.

The upshot of all this is that the following tracks have been added to
the DivShare play-list:

The Pentangle - "Lyke-Wake Dirge (Not Me Remix by connect_icut)"
This is a rough mix. Hopefully, a more polished version will be added to the list at a later date. [Deleted]

The Luminaries - "I Would Not Let You Drown"
Yep, apparently it's entirely based on guitar samples lifted from "Sweet Child", although it retains none of that tune's jauntiness, preferring to opt for a vague, timestretching-enhanced dread. Exxxxxxcellent

connect_icut - "Rue"
Based on The Pentangle's version of "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme". May also include fragments of The Iditarod's version but was created years before I heard
Shelagh McDonald's take. [Deleted]

The Luminaries - "I Would Not Let..."

[Note: The DivShare play-list that was originally embedded in the Acid Folk Remix Project posts has been replaced by a series of BooMP3 players.]

[Additional note: If the BooMP3 players don't appear, please click here. Thanks.]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Acid Folk Remix Project: You're Into It!
There's been a really good response to the announcement of my new Not Me project. More email has come in regarding said project than I've had time to deal with, so apologies to anyone who is yet to receive a reply. Two mixes have already been added to
the DivShare play-list , namely:

Comus - "The Bite (Not Me Remix by Esperik Glare)"


Anne Briggs - "Living by the Water (Not Me Remix by connect_icut)" [Deleted]

Coming very soon, a veritable shit-load of Pentangle-related mixes, including a particularly radical reworking from The Luminaries and some real vintage connect_icut tracks (if I can find the files).

Also, it seems like a good time to mention that contributors can feel free to:

(a) Send rough mixes. The tracks I've posted so far are basically demos. Hopefully, they'll be replaced by finished versions before too very long.

(b) Contribute out-and-out, no-holds-barred cover versions of classic acid folk tracks or original readings of traditional British/Irish tunes.

The sky's the limit, basically. Go acid folk crazy!

Comus - "The Bite (Remix)"

[Note: The DivShare play-list that was originally embedded in the Acid Folk Remix Project posts has been replaced by a series of BooMP3 players.]

[Additional note: If the BooMP3 players don't appear, please click here. Thanks.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Not Me: The Acid Folk Remix Project
As you may know, for each of the last few Christmases, I've made a compilation CDR of classic psychedelic folk rock from the British Isles. Not sure I'm up to the task this year, as most of my recent listening/digging has been focused on other musical arenas. What I'm going to do instead is finally initialize a collaborative musical extravaganza I've been threatening to unleash for some time: The Acid Folk Remix Project.

Basically, the plan is to come up with a CDR featuring experimental remixes of classic psychedelic folk tunes from the late '60s/early '70s. At least some of these remixes will be created by yours truly but I'm also looking for input from third parties. Therefore, you - yes you - are invited to get involved by sending me a remix you've made, based on the work of some circa-1970 UK folky or other.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Been doing a bit of blog repair recently. Random weird things have been happening, like the picture of Paul Morley disappearing and the Autumnal Melancholy Mix starting in the wrong place. Both problems have been corrected.

Can't believe "Frittering" by Mercury Rev got left off that mix. I bought Yerself is Steam during my first week at university and spent a good part of that autumn sulking along to side two, track one. They've still never topped it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Flight of the Conchords - "If You're Into It"

Are my features too deep-set to be considered classically handsome?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Outdoor Miner: Slight Return
You may remember that I wrote about cover versions of Wire's "Outdoor Miner" here and here. Well, according to The Decibel
Tolls, there are even more versions of this song than I thought, including this one by neo-shoegazers Experimental Aircraft.

In fact, there's a whole album of the bloody things! I actually wish this kind of thing would happen more often. It's pretty interesting to see the different ways different bands will approach the same song. Probably more interesting than hearing most bands play their own stupid songs, anyway.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Post-rocktoberfest in November: BBC WTF?
Simon Reynolds just told me about a documentary about post-rock that Paul Morley made for BBC Radio 2 this year. Sadly, it's not available online. Anyone know how I can hear this?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Best 30 Rock Evar!

"I don't think it's fair for me to be on a jury because I can read thoughts." Enjoy this clip before NBC has it pulled from YouTube. I would embed something from the network's official site, only they just plain don't want people in Canada accessing their online content.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Autumnal Melancholy Mix
As requested by C O, ten sad songs, hastily plucked from my iTunes folder. When things are finally starting to look up, you can rely on me to thoroughly bum everyone out (in a variety of genres!) "Enjoy".

Need cheering up now? Probably, right? Especially if you live in Vancouver, where the rain appears to be almost literally shitting down. Well then, here's some more good news for you - the fine folks from Fake Jazz are putting on another show at the Western Front. Here are the details:

Fake Jazz Fridays @ Western Front

Friday, November 7, 2008, at 8PM

An evening of experimental, underground fearlessness. Guest curated by Jeremy Van Wick and Bill Batt, creators of Fake Jazz Wednesdays, this event showcases artists from local labels Thankless Records and Isolated Now Waves, with:

Shearing Pinx

NĂ¼ Sensae

Aerosol Constellations


Japanese Graffiti

Aja & Gabe

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Post-rocktoberfest 2008: 30 Rocktoberfest (Spooky, Scary)
So, there you have it - a whole month's-worth of post-rock posts. Sure, most of the third-party contributions fell through and I never did get around to writing about Papa Sprain but what are y'gonna do?

As somebody recently pointed out to me, if you think about it, Post-rocktoberfest should actually be in November. So maybe I'll find time to do that Papa Sprain post after all. Or maybe I'll write something about post-rap.

I hadn't thought about - or listened to - post-rap for ages, until: (a) I got into a comments box debate about it; (b) I heard a few tracks off the new Restiform Bodies LP - which is shaping to be one of my albums of the year.

We'll see if it makes the cut when I do my end-of-year list in December. Boy, you really do have a lot to look forward to don't ya? All this plus the 30 Rock season premier tonight and Halloween just around the corner.

To get you all psyched-up for the ensuing goodness, I'm providing some relevant streaming media content in the player below. Please enjoy responsibly and try not to get too spooked.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Post-Rocktoberfest 2008: Scorn
Here's what Mark E. Rich has to say about Scorn. This is cross-posted over at Expressway:

If I were to prescribe to Sam's definitions of the three stages of Post Rock (and I do) then I would have caught on to the genre midway through the second stage, with Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die being the launching pad. Post Rock to me, at the time, meant Tortoise and it's many offshoots (Isotope 217, Chicago Underground Duo 217 etc.), Cul De Sac, Gastr Del Sol and the then burgeoning Constellation Records scene (Do Make Say Think, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and A Silver Mount Zion). In all honesty, most likely due to the ignorance of the press I was reading at the time (Spin, Alternative Press and Rolling sue me! I lived in a small town where the only outlet to new music were in these music rags), I had no idea there was a post rock scene that preceded this North American one, much less on the other side of the pond. It wasn't until a few years later when I got into UK groups like Seefeel that I found that post rock was originally a British-coined term denoting, as Simon Reynolds (the man behind all this confusion) put it, "using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbres and textures rather than riffs and powerchords." Well that sure widens the scope of this already confusing genre tag.

This brings us to the album in question--Scorn's Evanescence, which I am still becoming acquainted with, and which was recommended by thee Post Rock Ombudsman himself, to be reviewed by me for Post Rocktoberfest. After several listens over the last few weeks, I still wonder how this fits into the post rock category. I hear more in common with dub, electronic and industrial musics than I do with the mainstays in the post rock genre, or with rock music in general. Most of this album sounds as if it were created on a computer or in a lab rather than by a band using their rock instruments in a forward-thinking manner. In fact,
Evanescence sounds a hell of a lot like fellow UK act Meat Beat Manifesto and their two albums, Subliminal Sandwich and Actual Sounds and Voices, and who have always been associated with the industrial-rock scene of the early-mid 90s. Need proof? Check it...



Both groups share a penchant for simplistic, dubby grooves, slowly spoken vocals, creeping guitars and synths, and dark, industrial-like noises and tics. So why is that MBM were never slotted into the post rock category? And why was Scorn ever put there in the first place? Both bands created similar works during the same era and in the same part of the world. Perhaps this is what always confused me and many others when having to define post rock and when to assign certain groups into the wide scope of the genre. Some groups made the post rock cut while others were left in the dust.

If you take a look at the current crop of noise rock mongers like Hair Police or Wolf Eyes and place Simon's definition of post rock over top, it becomes a perfect match. Here we have a great example of groups who use rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes. Yet no one dares call Hair Police post rock even though, by definition, they fit the mold perfectly. So are we now in the fourth stage of post rock? Should the "third stage" of post rock (ie. the boring, instrumental "dog shit" rock of Explosions in the Sky and latter day Mogwai) even be included under the post rock umbrella? If Scorn and Meat Beat Manifesto rely on the studio more than rock instruments are they still post rock? Unanswerable questions, really.

The point of writing this was to help contribute a meaningful review of a post rock album to Sam's blog. Instead I think I have just made the already muddy post rock waters just a little murkier.

Scorn Bonus Features

More goodness from ReynoldsRetro. Click the links below to take a closer look:

Review One

Review Two

And two rather amusing live videos from YouTube: one from the very early 90s, when Scorn were still a pre-post-rock metal group and one from the 00s, by which time Scorn had mutated into Mick Harris's solo post-post-rock electronica project.