Thursday, February 28, 2008

I have to take one of my occasional breaks from blogging. Things are pretty busy right now what with work and the forthcoming connect_icut LP and all. I won't be posting for the next few weeks unless if I've got a new Not Me remix 12" to give you.

Fortunately, I've been pretty diligent recently, so there's plenty of choice BB Cage content for all of y'all to get your teeth into. The following is a hyper-linked round-up of recent posts, to help you get started.

Not Me
Virtual 12" Number One
Virtual Remix 12" Number One
Virtual 12" Number Two and Virtual Remix 12" Number Two
Virtual 12" Number Three

Musical Obsessions
Fovea Hex
My Bloody Valentine
Disco Inferno
Von Sudenfed

Two of a Kind
Outdoor Miner

30 Rock

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fovea Hex
I've mentioned Fovea Hex before, notably here.
The casualness with which I've dropped the name has started to feel a little dishonest, though. Full disclosure, then: the music of Fovea Hex is just about all I listen to right now.

As I've explained previously, Fovea Hex is the current project of one Clodagh Simonds, who began her musical career as a teenager in the early 60s, singing traditional Irish folk songs. In the 70s she was a member of the acid folk group Mellow Candle, who were tipped for great things that never came to pass.

That could have been the end of the story but somehow Simonds has re-emerged in recent years under the guise of Fovea Hex, collaborating with a startling array of avant rock legends and industrial goth weirdos including Robert Fripp, Colin Potter, Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Andrew McKenzie and Carter Burwell!

The results of these collaborations have appeared over the past three years in a series of three short EPs. The music contained on said EPs is among the most ambitious and purely beautiful I've heard in recent times.

It would be easy - but foolish and wasteful - to dismiss Fovea Hex as a kind of goth version of Clannad. Certainly, the EPs present a highly decorative amalgam of Celtic folk music and synth-based ambiance. But Fovea Hex's music is far more stridently avant garde and emotionally turbulent than anything else that could be described as "new age folk".

Simonds' songwriting really does have the most extraordinary ebb-and-flow to it, with tracks regularly drifting past the ten-minute mark. In terms of her uncanny ability to stretch the atomic structure of songs into a gaseous flux, the only apt comparison is Noriko Tujiko. In terms of the sheer ambition and scope of her writing, the only apt comparison is Joanna Newsom.

I don't make these comparisons because I imagine Clodagh Simonds' songwriting is somehow particularly "feminine". It just so happens that, right now, the music scene's most ambitious and accomplished songwriters are all women.

The arrangement and production of Simonds' songs on the Fovea Hex EPs is as stunning as the songs themselves. Here the most apt comparison is Coil: inky-black tidal seascapes whose murky depths barely conceal a seething mass of life.

But Fovea Hex shouldn't be celebrated as a merely technical victory. These recordings pack a mighty emotional punch too. Much of this has to do with Simonds' remarkably powerful and versatile vocal delivery.

The lyrics help as well - creating a mood somewhere between erotic obsession and religious ecstasy, which is what comes from a Catholic upbringing, presumably. The incredible thing is the way Simonds can maintain an almost nauseating sense of spiritual peril before really cutting the listener loose by dropping some apparently mundane phrase. When she sings "take my call" on "Allure" or "everywhere I go I carry a photo" on "Huge", it's... shocking!

Hear for yourself. I've posted streaming versions of the
aforementioned title tracks from the Allure and Huge EPs in the player below. Listen and listen good. Then go and buy buy buy them from the Janet Records website.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Not Me Virtual 12" Number Three - "Jon's World"/"Loom"
This is my last contribution to the current Not Me virtual 12" series but I'll keep posting virtual remix 12"s as long as you lot keep sending me the tracks.

You can download "Jon's World" and "Loom" here or stream them in the player below.

Coming soon: Not Me - The Acid Folk Remix Project. I've been promising to get this ball rolling for some time. I'll make it my next musical priority once I get a third virtual remix 12" posted. Honest.

Still available:

Virtual 12" Number One

Virtual Remix 12" Number One

Virtual 12" Number Two and Virtual Remix 12" Number Two

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fennesz - Transition 7" (Touch)
A new solo release from Christian Fennesz is alw
ays welcome, especially when it comes in the form of a vinyl record. Sure, Transition is a mere seven-inch single but given how few and far between Fennesz records have been in recent years, I'll take what I can get.

A new Fennesz full-length is scheduled for release on Touch this spring but anyone who remembers the series of delays that preceded the eventual appearance of Venice will be taking that information with a healthy pinch of salt.

Transition is part of the Touch Sevens series of 45s. A previous record in the series (one I don't have) included contributions from both Fennesz and Phillip Jeck. The next one is going to be by Oren Ambarchi.

Fennesz's solo contribution to the series follows in the wake of a (spit! spit!) paid download-only release called "On a Desolate Shore, a Shadow Passes By". Essentially, Transition busts that MP3 into two separate songs - "On a Desolate Shore" and "A Shadow Passes By".

The technical note on the cover suggests that these songs are going to be fairly straightforward guitar recordings. Thankfully, they turn out to be loaded with Fennesz's signature DSP magic.

Both tracks have the grainy guitar textures of Endless Summer, the autumnal melancholy of Venice and the classically electro-acoustic structures of Plus 47 Degrees... In other words, this little disc represents a pretty stunning summation of the great man's finest moments to date.

Transition really is an essential purchase for Fennesz fans. Initially, I thought it was going to be a highly limited, mail-order only release but it seems that it's actually going to be properly distributed and available from a record store near you.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Two New Virtual 12"s
More free music for you to download and remix.

The second Not Me virtual 12" is raw to the core raw like Reservoir Dawgs and will speak to you through a loathsome geometry whose configurations mean insanity. Quite different from anything I've released before, in other words.
Dance music for deaf dogs?

The second Not Me virtual remix 12" features more mixes of tracks from the first virtual 12", this time courtesy of Charlie Martineau aka Esperik Glare. These are among the finest tracks I've heard from Charlie, though their scary beauty is very much representative of his style.

Great stuff but hardly likely to provide me with the breakout "minimal" dancefloor hit I've been craving. Maybe someone will come up with some groovy mixes of the new tracks.
Why is everyone always so abstract?

Not Me Virtual 12" Number Two
Side A: Simple Then
Side B: Heidi

Download the tracks here or stream them in the player below.

Not Me Virtual Remix 12" Number Two
Side A: New Music for A Scanner Darkly (Esperik Glare Remix)
Side B:
My Bitching (Bitchin' Brew Mix by Esperik Glare)

Download here, stream below.

Still available...

Virtual 12" Number One

Virtual Remix 12" Number One

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Bloody Valentine Gift to You
So... will it happen? The UK tour, the shows in mainland Europe, the new album, the whole nine yards? As someone who's been an MBV fan since the Glider EP, I'm skeptical, to say the least. Yeah, we've also been promised a new Fennesz album in the coming months and I fucking doubt that'll happen either.

Seriously, I'm still 99% per cent certain that the MBV reformation shows will be canceled at the last minute. That's what 15 years of broken promises will do to a person. And yet the band's music means so much to me that I've bought tickets for shows in Manchester and London and begun planning a whole trip to the UK around them.

Will it happen? And if not, when will it not happen. Christ, it's like waiting for the other shoe to drop! Lest the anguish become unbearable, I prescribe a dose of MBV rarities, administered via online streaming. That might help to ease the pain somewhat. On the other hand, it could just increase the anticipation.

For what it's worth, here's your annual My Bloody Valentine's Day dose of sharity.

1. "Map Ref 41N 83W" is the Wire cover discussed in this post. The MP3 embedded in the player is encoded at mere "high quality" for your streaming convenience. It doesn't really capture this, one the greatest recordings of music in the history of recorded music. Therefore, I'm making the unusual move of allowing you to actually download a "higher quality" version from here. I don't normally do this kind of thing but MBV's version of "Map Ref" really is essential and not easy to come by through legitimate channels.

2. "We Have All the Time in the World", like "Map Ref" is one the few MBV recordings to emerge post Loveless. It's rather atypical for the band - a synth-heavy take on the Bond theme originally sung by Louis Armstrong. It does, however, have that quintessentially MBV tinge of indescribable otherness about it. It was recorded for a charity compilation called Peace Together but I got it from an Island Records sampler that came with some UK music monthly back in the day.

3. The Andy Weatherall mix of "Soon" is actually in print as a vinyl bootleg but I don't think it's ever been available in a legitimate digital form. This mix is so early 90s it hurts. I remember hearing Coldcut mix it into KRS One's "Sound of the Police" at a music festival in Brighton during my university days. Yeah, that early 90s.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Which Side Are You On?
Please Keep Dancing (which is turning into one of the blogs most worth reading in these post-Woebot times) typically thoughtful on the whole Blackout debacle:

"While I like Tromatic Reflexxions, there is a wide gulf between Mark E. Smith-chopped-vocal catchy and Britney Spears catchy."

Well alright, if we're going to get binary about it, let's say - for the sake of argument - that Blackout is vacant and sensual, while Tromatic is cerebral and brutal. What's interesting is that not everyone comes down on the expected side of this (rather arbitrary) divide. Certainly, I wouldn't have had myself down as a Cerebral Brutalist - not until quite recently, at least.

I'd like to read a detailed compare-and-contrast written by someone who likes both albums equally. Might be illuminating.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Not Me Virtual Remix 12" Number One: The Wonk Mixes
Here's the first Not Me virtual remix 12" courtesy of Christopher Olson aka Wonk. Chris is the blogger responsible for The Year of Spaghetti and Undateable Mix Tape. He also curates the CDR label Standard Grey Editions.

The track-listing of this virtual 12" is:

Side A
1. New Music for Richard etc. (Wonk Remix)
2. Ovalisque (Wonk Mix)

Side B
1. My Bitching (Wonk Remix)

You can download the tracks here or stream them in the player below. Please note that side B fades in very gradually.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Mark E Smith reads HP Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space for the BBC. Those glasses rather suit him, don't they?

Apparently there's a new Fall album called Imperial Wax Solvent coming out in the next couple of months. It was recorded at Mouse on Mars' studio but - according to Smith - it's not at all electronic and has "that 'metallicness' you get in Germany".

Seriously, it seems like this one could be a marked improvement on Reformation Post-TLC, for the following reasons:

1. It was recorded with a totally different band (other than Smith and his wife Elenor, of course)

2. The North American edition is not coming out on Narnack (so no appallingly ugly cover art, one would hope)

3. It has the most truly bonkers song titles of any Fall album in some time (sample: "Senior Twilight Stock Replacer").

In other Fall news, Smith is allegedly having his autobiography published this year. I'm not making any of this up, honest!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Disco Inferno: The Five EPs
It's come to my attention that a bootleg Disco Inferno compilation has been circulating among discerning music fans. This CDR, called The Five EPs, seems to be the work of fairly prominent music blogger who is - by all accounts - an obsessive DI fan.

Whoever may be responsible, it's good to see these songs circulating again. For the most part, they were only ever available in that most ephemeral of formats - the UK CD single (at least some of them came out on vinyl but I only have the CDs). While DI's two classic albums (DI Go Pop and Technicolour) have remained in print fairly steadily since the band's early/mid-90s "heyday", there has never been an official collection of the singles and EPs from that same period.

This is a crying shame because the discs unofficially collected on The Five EPs represent the bulk of Disco Inferno's best work. While the albums are great, they don't tell the full story about DI. It's this compilation that presents the true, truly unique Disco Inferno sound, as such.

So while it's a shame that Ian Crause et al aren't seeing any royalties from the circulation of this music, it's wonderful that people are actually hearing it. The Five EPs doesn't only represent the creative pinnacle of the original UK post-rock scene, it also collects some of the most innovative and visionary music ever created in any genre.

Amazing, really, that DI emerged from East London in the early 90s as mere devotees of Mancunian bedsit psychedelia (Joy Division, The Durutti Column, The Blue Orchids...) The music they made after discovering the sample-based futurism of The Young Gods and Public Enemy remains without parallel or equal.

"Summer's Last Sound"/"Love Stepping Out" (1992)
And it all began here, with Disco Infeno's final single for the Cheree label. With "Summer's Last Sound", DI took a huge leap into the unknown, subverting the classic rock power trio set-up by employing MIDI gear that allowed them to use their guitar, bass and drums to trigger samples of environmental and musical sounds. All of DI's music from this point on was extremely innovative and utterly unique but it was never more beautifully realized than on the "Love Stepping Out" single.

"A Rock to Cling to"/"From the Devil to the Deep Blue Sky" (1993)
This single marked the band's debut as
Rough Trade recording artists. Confusingly, when you put the CD into a computer it tells you that the first (short) song is "From the Devil..." and that the second (epic) track is "A Rock to Cling to". I've always assumed this to be the other way around because Crause sings "I always need a rock to cling to" on the short song. Anyway, I've uploaded the short song for your streaming pleasure (see the player at the bottom of this post) and labeled it "A Rock to Cling to".

Either way, this song represents a partial, surprisingly effective step back to the band's gloom-rock roots, whereas the long track is their most ambitious piece of pure sonic sculpture (an approach reprised on the posthumously released EP The Mixing It Session).

"The Last Dance" (1993)
The New Order-esque "Last Dance" is probably my favourite Disco Inferno song. The words sum up DI's world-view quite nicely: "Small hopes flash by and wave/While foreign forces wait and pray/And the fear of the future eats so deep in our hearts/That we'll all but destroy ourselves/Like the centuries of feuds/Being updated with high-tech weapons/In the end it's not the future/But the past that will get us".

The rest of the EP is more experimental and hardly any less inspired. "Scattered Showers" is particularly brilliant and quintessentially DI - rather like discovering a lost stand-out track from the wildly avant garde DI Go Pop.

"Second Language" (1994)
Another great EP in the style of "The Last Dance". "At the End of the Line" reprises the cloudy ambiance of "Scattered Showers" to magnificent effect. All four tracks are fantastic and this EP is probably the most representative example of the classic DI sound.

"It's a Kid's World" (1994)
The title track from this EP was actually featured on Technicolour, so I'm letting you stream B-side "Lost in Fog" in the player below. "It's a Kid's World" is an oddly jaunty number that samples "Lust for Life" and the Dr. Who theme. Apparently, Crause derided Technicolour as "cartoon music" and this track could certainly be described as such.

"Lost in Fog", by contrast, is nightmarishly dark - so much so, in fact, that it found its way onto Kevin Martin's epochal dark ambient compilation, Isolationism. It really does sound like a commercially failing band dissolving into a state of utter despair.

Which is pretty much what was happening, I guess. The music they left behind will stand the test of time, though. I've said this before and I'll say it again: Disco Inferno were the Velvet Underground of the 90s. There will be a time - soon - when everyone who hears Disco Inferno will immediately go out and form a questing experimental rock band.

More precisely, Disco Inferno will be to the music of the coming decade what the Velvets were to 80s indie rock: absolutely the essential touchstone and visionary text.

I am only partly joking.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Two Postscripts
1. "Outdoor Miner"
Further to this post, the Flying Saucer Attack article I mentioned was indeed written by the Blissblogger. You can read it here, along with an FSA album review from the same period. Uncanny how closely my original "Outdoor Miner" post mirrors the opinions expressed in this article. Makes you wonder how much of what gets written in this here blog is based on opinions received from Melody Maker articles in the early 90s and stored in the musty depths of my subconscious.

Additionally, here are some more covers of "Outdoor Miner" for your streaming pleasure, including the aforementioned Lush version. The others are by Mary Lou Lord (do I detect the hand of The Bevis Frond here?) and Felt (a rather lo-fi live recording). For the most part, these are of historical interest but one rather suspects it's impossible to do a really bad version of "Outdoor Miner".

2. Not Me

Seems like Wonk, Lim and Esperik Glare are working on Not Me remixes. Additionally, Lim has given me a loop that he constructed from elements of "New Music for Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly". You can download it here, if you want to use it in your own remix.

Get involved!