Far Black Furlong - Far Black Furlong
It has to be said that whilst I have a fondness for reading poetry I really dislike listening to it so the opening track of this album from UK folk / drone ensemble Far Black Furlong is a real miss. Fortunately it's the only miss on what is a very fine listen indeed. Composed entirely on acoustic instruments and primarily outdoors (it's at this point that my inner punk starts ranting about 'bloody hippies' but we're going to ignore him) RBF produce a form of folk music that is rooted in the amorphous melodies that make up the great outdoors. The music is to a large extent formless, shapeless and directionless (are all intended here as positives) seemingly taking its structure from the movement and flow of its surroundings. Occasionally things meander too far for my liking and become slightly cluttered but this usually happens when the ensemble try to add a touch of 'structure' or 'convention' to the mix but a willingness to change should always be applauded and doesn't really mar ones enjoyment of a beautiful set of compositions.
Farthest South - Omens & Talismans
(Farsouth West Records FSW001)
What we have here is a new ensemble featuring a couple of guys who've, separately, made a big impact on us here at WWR and now have, along with two new faces, teamed up to collectively blow my mind.
Saxophonist Albert Beger and Yair Yona (bass / effects) are here joined by Barry Berko on guitar and Yair Etziony on electronics and bass have exploded into action via 4 tracks of warped and blistering jazz influenced improvisational fire.
It's a stunning set with Beger's sax and Berko's guitar soaring over a shifting bedrock of sound. Occasionally things turn to a quieter more introspective direction but for the most part it's a pretty euphoric and ecstatic cavalcade of sound.
Farthest South - Spheres & Constellations
(Farsouthwest Records FSW002)
Space is most definitely the place for the 3 folks (Barry Berko - keys / guitar, Yair Yona- bass / effects / iPhone, Yair Etziony - analog synths) who make up Israel's finest free expression, psychedelic explorers, Farthest South.
On this, their second album, they have fully committed themselves to pointing themselves at the farthest point (presumably in a southerly direction) and then heading towards it in as stately a manner as possible; passing through the most grandiose of environments and boundless shimmering oceans before coming to a final rest.
I've been in contact with Yair (Yona) for a few years now and have featured the music of both he and his compatriots a few times and have always enjoyed but this new project, even after only two albums, are already one of my most anticipated of outfits and I urge you to track this down.
Fasenuova – Ella Esta Llena de Garcia
(Truco Esparrago TR-010)
A look at the cover art of this album tells you instantly what you are about to get. A shadowed face lit from below by two candles that also pick out the skull centred pentagram on the figures chest.
You know this is going to be ‘dark’ but is it going to be goth dark or noise dark. Within seconds of pressing play you are left in no doubt it’s the latter.
High pitched squeals, crashing noise and grinding cacophonies push things along. It isn’t as full-on as I was expecting which is to their credit. They change pace and texture regularly and show a real aplomb but it is all just a little too forceful and serious for my hippy ears. It just seems to be missing the sense of fun that made noise so much, well, fun.
Faust - Collectif Met(z) 1996-2005
3CD & 1DVD box
A new Faust album is always cause for much rejoicing in this house (on my part at least). So, in the spirit of honesty and fair-play I make no attempt to hide my abundant joy at the prospect of new Faust music. And does it disappoint? Well, no, obviously. A live set from 1996, a disc of rehearsals from 2005, a disc of home recordings and a, frankly, inconsequential eight minute dvd which I'm going to ignore because it's a bit of a waste of plastic.
We'll start with the live disc, a recording from the Musiques Volantes Festival on 8/11/96 that showcases what I assume was, at the time, a new look Faust. Also, a very industrial sounding Faust with a set marrying abstract guitar noise and electronics with pummelling metallic rhythms. Occasionally a melody, or at least the promise of one, breaks through and shifts everything onto a new plateau but on the whole this is pretty uncompromising and intense.
By 2004 the (same) players have mellowed out considerably. Gone(ish) are the punishing rhythms and guitar squalls and in their place is a band that has matured into each other. The arrangements are looser, it's got a real feel for vintage era Faust and the band sound like they're thoroughly enjoying just playing. Raga style drones, string bending and repetition are in ascendence and abundance here.
The third disc features 9 home recordings by Zappi Diermaier and Jean-Herve Peron. More so than you'd imagine, each person's recordings reflect very strongly their place within the group being, in turn, very percussion centred and then very vocal orientated. As songs Zappi's contributions are the most fully realised although the drums are a bit too loud in the mix for my taste. JHP's 'Rund ist Schoen' worked far better in concert than it does here but his 'Melancholy on Three Strings' is beautiful.
Think of this album as the three sides of Faust. The overtly experimental side is here on the 'Personal' disc, The rehearsals disc brings us the hippy, folky, citizen of the world side and the live in 1997 is Faust at it's most industrial. What is present on every disc however is the all-encompassing joie de vivre and good nature that characterises every note as being uniquely Faustian. While it's not the best thing they've ever done, if you're already a fan then it's definitely worth picking up otherwise try an early album first, 'So Far' or 'IV' would be my recommendation, and come back to this once you're hooked.
Faust - Coal Exchange, Cardiff 31/10/05
Midway through this gig Jean-Herve Peron, Faust's permanently smiling bassist / singer / trumpeter / horn player / cement-mixerist / etc / etc, relates a story of a friend who 'Buries metal in the ground. He waits 25 years. He is very patient. Then he digs it up and it is art.' (or words to that effect). This could almost be a metaphor for Faust itself only it was 35 years ago (or so) and rather than waiting patiently for their metal to rust they have been busily battering it into whatever shape takes their fancy. As a result, unlike that of the metal burier's, Faust's art is vibrant with the patination of a lover's touch.
In a set that lasted around the two hour mark we were taken on an excursion through both the band's back catalogue and the distant reaches of their collective improvisations. At times the proceedings threatened to disolve into farce (Peron ironing a shirt and yelling 'This is not music!' (he's right, it's definitely ironing) amongst collective banging, clanging, moaning, whooping and angle grinding) only to be brought back from the brink by the sheer good nature of the thing (he gave the shirt to an audience member). Delicate psychedelic ballads are followed by pummelling one chord industrial assaults and shrieking noise attacks which in turn give way to a drone piece that had the hairs on my arms standing on end as it reverberated around the enormously high (in every sense of the word) room and then the cement mixer kicks in before we're back to ballads again. The encore of my dreams - It's a Rainy Day - was never likely to send me home unhappy but there were at least three points in the set where if they'd stopped I would still have gone home happy. Highlight followed highlight followed highlight in a set that was an absolute joy to behold. Wish you were there.
Faust - In Autumn
3CD + 1 DVD box
A beautifully produced box set consisting 3 CDs and 1 DVD all recorded live on the October / November 2005 UK tour of a band I am utterly besotted with. No-one and I mean NO-ONE does it for me quite like Faust. Bear that in mind when reading this.
Upon opening I went straight to the DVD for the simple reason that 5 of the 15 songs featured are from the gig I attended - Cardiff, Coal Exchange. Imagine my joy as these turn out to be the highlights of the disc being both well lit, reasonably well shot and with clear sound. Surely this gig deserves a DVD of it's own (hint hint). Some of the other tracks suffer somewhat in the production stakes but the sheer joie-de-vivre of the performances carry them through admirably.
These same issues apply to the audio discs with the sound quality dipping and rolling throughout. Be aware however that I'm only mentioning this for the sake of completeness because it really doesn't impact on the listening pleasure to any great degree. The 'rough and ready' quality found on many Faust releases is a great part of their charm - here it's just slightly more apparent. The opportunity to hear new versions of many classic Faust tunes (Rainy Day, Chromatic, It's a Bit of a Pain, Talk to the Fish & J'ai Mal Aux Dents amongst many others over the 4 discs) played loud and live (and well) is a joy that's just too good an opportunity to pass on.
The sun is shining, the birds are singing and I'm listening to Faust.
Life is good.
Faust - In Autumn (Taster CD)
The 'In Autumn' taster cd consists of 5 live tracks (Chromatic (from London), Skinhead (from Newcastle), Caruso (also Newcastle), Baby Is Blue (from Bangor) & Slide (also Bangor)) the last two of which are exclusive to this CD. It was originally intended as a promotional item given away at the London screening of the Faust concert film 'Nobody Knows if it Really Happened', the book 'Stretch Out Time' and the box set. Those not at the launch will have to pay inflated prices from greedy shops or be really lucky and rely upon the kindness of strangers (you know who you are and you have my thanks). My advice would be if you're the obsessive completist type (cough) then invest in this little gem. If not just buy the box set as it's worth every penny.
Faust with Nurse With Wound - Disconnected (limited edition)
Wow! Talk about dream pairings. The two 'bands' that have been at the centre of my musical tastes for the last 10 years and they do not disappoint in the slightest. Disconnected (the limited edition version at least) is a stunning album of two unequal halves. The first half being the actual album wherein the NWW duo mixed, produced, augmented a set of Faust recordings to create what is possibly the finest work either outfit has produced in recent years (and that's not intended as a slight on either outfits recordings either. It's just that good). The second 'half' comes in the shape of a contentiously included live Faust track.
I had read, on the NWW Myspace, that the NWW twosome were unhappy with the inclusion of the bonus track on the special edition version of this album on the grounds that it "destroys the concept and atmosphere they have tried to create". I don't really want to go into any detail on this issue but I will say that I think the use of the word 'destroys' is a little strong. It's true that the first four tracks have a cohesion and flow to them that excludes utterly the final live track with it's crashing atonalities, but to my mind this has always been a characteristic of Faust, albums full of beautiful and unexpected jarring inconsistencies. From a purely listener based standpoint I really don't think the inclusion of this track detracts from the album in the slightest. The collaborative tracks are a complete article. Taken as a whole they are compelling and compulsive, a fact which nothing can demean. The bonus track is individual from the others in terms of it's sonorities and it's execution and as such becomes simply the next (very welcome) piece of music on the playlist.
Faust - Od Serca Do Duszy
(Lumberton Trading Company LUMB2CD008)
The last few years has seen this current incarnation of Faust (JHP, Zappi & Amaury Cambuzat) reinvent the band for the 21st century as a prolific live entity. Re-discovering themselves as a band unafraid to play and play with the music that established them alongside some very challenging experimental forays into the outer limits of live music. This CD, following hot(ish) on the heels of the 'In Autumn' box set (on Dirter), was recorded live in Krakow in November 2006 and in many places ploughs the same ground as those shows that made up the earlier box. This slightly stripped down line-up however offers an even rawer take on the music than that played on the UK tour. There is a gloriously shambolic feel to the proceedings with the trio trading sounds, riffs, rhythms, ideas and words. Occasionally things do get a little too 'out there' to be fully appreciated on record (I'm sure live it was a different matter) but on the whole there is an admirable collective consciousness on display that allows the interplay to create such gems as the improvisation that opens CD2 as well as the reinterpretation of The Sad Skinhead. As with all live albums, this should probably be treated primarily as a collectors piece. This recording, I suspect, isn't going to bring anyone new into the fold but for established fans it holds another fascinating snapshot of 21st century Faust.
Faust - Trial and Error: Audio und Video Experiments 2005
The title clearly states that these are 'experiments'. If you are looking for 'polished' professional videos then you'll need to look elsewhere. This is Faust at play.
On a music level what we find here is Faust at their most wilfully obtuse. Atonal, angular, precocious and always gloriously anarchic. The very idea of 'song' is pushed to it's limits taking all preconceptions with it. As ever Faust are willing to go (boldly) where others do not. Even the familiar (Rainy Day, Rondo) are taken out of their bodies and transformed into something that is essentially 'other'.
Whilst musically this is really quite excellent, visually it's maybe a different case. I think another subtitle might have been 'Faust have fun with effects' as for the most part it consists of a static shot being slowly played through a series of image warping doohickeys. As such it isn't the most interesting thing in the world to watch and I found myself staring out the window for much of my initial play and subsequently I have been treating it more like an album than a DVD.
Trial and Error is Faust being the Faust I fell in love with via the Faust Tapes album. This is the sound of ideas in constant forward motion and it's fabulous.
Faust - Kleine Welt (Live)
(Ektro Records ektro-046)
Opening with an uninspired and rather lumpen bassline (from the normally thoroughly reliable Michael Stoll) this new live album from the Hans Joachim Irmler version of Faust gets off to a inauspicious start. The band seem ill at ease, the music restless and strained. It isn't truly until the albums 17 minute centrepiece of Crawling Wax that things really start to gel, although every step forward from that opening is a step forward.
This Faust is a more straight-ahead beast than the Zappi / Peron faction. It's every bit as obscure but it's obscurity lies very much in a musicianly dynamic as opposed to the dada-esque industrial willfullness of the other. My preference is for the latter but that does not in any way preclude the former. When they are searching for the heart of the music (like on the afore-mentioned Crawling Wax) they are painstakingly and absorbingly methodical in their excavations and when they are simply rocking out (Thru & Jet Set Lady) they are great fun. But what's missing for me though is the beautiful laughing goddess of chaos who dances through the best of the Faust albums; everything here seems rather serious. I can't hear any smiles and it's the smiles that make a Faust album better than anyone else's.
It's good but it's not fabulous.
Faust - C'est Com...Com...Compliqué
(Bureau B bb21)
Brand spanking new album from the Zappi / Peron version of Faust and it's an absolute corker. Here accompanied by guitarist Amaury Cambuzat (from excellent French post-hardcore band Ulan Bator) this is a set of 9, almost restrained sounding, cuts. Please though, realise that when I say restrained sounding I am talking about a band with a penchant for chainsaws, threshing machines and angle grinders so it's all relative. For the most part here though the trio seem content to explore the looser, jamming, sides of their musical personalities and that's fine by me. This is a side that doesn't often come out to play these days and it's always been a big part of the charm of the band in my eyes.
Peron's voice oozes an easy charm that is perfectly at home singing over acoustic instruments and 'traditional' drums (Petits Sons Appétissants) as it is yelling over freak-out instrumentation and scrapyard percussion. His musicianship bold and assured.
Zappi is, as ever, at the heart of each piece augmenting with percussive flurries and providing a solid backbone upon which the others can explore. His drums have never been anything as mundane as a rhythm instrument but if that is the role that is called for (En Veux-Tu des Effets, en Voilà) then he delivers with aplomb. Cambuzat (as he did on the 2005 UK tour) proves himself to be the perfect foil for the two original members. His guitar playing is lyrical, melodic, razor-sharp and coruscating. Like the others his playing perfectly compliments the compositions never dominating or intrusive. It's a shame he no longer seems to be part of the band.
This is the sound of a band at the top of their game and you'll be hard pressed to hear a better album this year.
Faust - Schiphorst 2008
Produced as a benefit CD for the Schiphorst Avant-garde festival this nicely packaged double CD is a recording of Faust's set from the 2008 festival with the addition of both the sound of Steve Stapleton painting along to Jean-Herve's chainsaw (film of which can be found on youtube) and also a rousing version of Rock 'n' Roll Station by Nurse With Wound with Jean-Herve hollering along.
This is Faust at their most experimental and dadaist as you'd imagine as it's an avant-garde festival. The recording is fairly primitive but doesn't detract from the performance or the listening pleasure. The set is a fairly free rolling affair with only occasional forays into established Faust compositions. I like this very much. It's beautifully haphazard and genuinely honest. It feels as though the band have rehearsed just enough to get the structure of the song but not so much that they are locked into any preconceived notions.
It's not as essential a listen as the new album 'C'est Com...Com...Compliqué' but if your a fan then this should be high on your wants list.
Faust - Lady Sorrow - Interpretation: Sorge
(Clouds Hill Records Ltd CH009)
I know very little about this 7" as the label website is in German and I'm a typical ignorant Brit with skills in only one language. This is the Zappi / Peron faction which includes the current line-up of Geraldine Swayne, James Johnston & James Hodson and is a cover of a song by German band Karamel.
As you'd imagine being a cover version means it's not typical Faust, although the drumming is unmistakable, but don't let that stop you as it's really rather excellent. Swayne is in fine voice here and relates the song in a laconic Marlene Dietrich manner over chiming instrumentation, a wavering bass pulse and Zappi's crashing non-rhythm.
I've been listening to this repeatedly over the last couple of weeks and thoroughly enjoying it so please believe me when I tell you it's well worth tracking down.
Faust - Faust is Last
My love for Faust in whichever iteration is well documented and cemented further every time someone reads the name of the zine. Of the two modern versions, if I was pressed I would have to admit a preference for the Zappi / Peron faction purely based on the dada-industrialness of their constructions but some of the Irmler Faust albums have been exquisitely crafted albums that get regular plays here.
This newest album from the Irmler Faust is purportedly their last and is a very odd beast indeed. Large portions of the album are quintessential Faust and are simply wonderful but occasionally the album veers into some strange territory indeed and it's a game of 'spot the sound-alike'. 'Soft Prunes' has a late period Pink Floyd vibe whilst 'Hit Me' lifts it's riff from 'Interstellar Overdrive'. 'I Don't Buy Your Shit No More' is the Rolling Stones and strangest of all, 'Babylon' sounds like 'Theme For A Jackal' era Misfits. It's quite disconcerting.
When they are being themselves though they really are on tip top form. This version is generally the less wilfully experimental and industrial (although disc 2 does go some way towards putting the lie to that statement) but is far more freely psychedelic with a barely restrained fondness for disappearing into an extended jam. Although here the short track times keep the jamming to a minimum you can feel that in a live setting each of these tracks has the potential to expand far beyond it's time-bound confines.
It's not the best Faust album I've heard (by a long way) but it's still a damn fine concoction of tracks. Is it to be the last we'll hear from the Irmler faction? I certainly hope not, both because it isn't the definitive statement that a final album from a collective this deserves to leave with and also because a collective this good should never make a final album.
Here's to many more.
Faust / Band of Pain - John Cage - Radio Music
This beautifully presented 10” EP contains 4 of the movements from John Cage’s Radio Music, an 8 part score of radio frequency tunings and silence, as realised by (Dirter head honcho) Band of Pain’s Steve Pittis (who opens and closes this EP), Jean-Herve Peron and Zappi Diermaier (both of Faust).
Each track is confined to a strict 6 minutes in length and there’s not a lot I can say here really. They sound exactly like you’d imagine. 4 tracks of radios flipping between tunings sometimes finding voices, sometimes music, sometimes static hiss. With the obvious exception of half of these tracks being predominantly in German and the other half English all 4 tracks are really rather similar. You’re either going to dig this or you aren’t. Personally I’ve always had a real soft spot for radio play and when it’s done well it’s really effective and provides an utterly unpredictable mash-up of sound that is unlike anything else.
I think you’ve probably already made your minds up about whether or not you’d like to pursue this release further - probably even just based on the composer’s name in the title - but if you do decide to acquire a copy then I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Faust / Like A Stuntman - Split 12"
(Bureau B bb108)
I mean no disrespect to Like A Stuntman when I say that their presence on this EP didn't even elicit the remotest iota of consideration when buying this. I’d been playing it for a day before I even thought to turn it over and try their side.
You know that feeling when a tune reminds you of something else so much it almost hurts but you can't quite put your finger on what it is, well, Like A Stuntman's music reminds me of someone so much it almost hurts and I can't quite put my finger on it. Musically it's a fun melange of early 70's Krautrock explorations mixed with late 70's synth-pop quirks and it's a lot of fun.
Truthfully though this EP was always going to be about the other side with the Peron / Zappi version of Faust providing an out-take from the recording of their recent LP entitled, 'Beyond Clouds Hill (A Faust improvisation, Feb 2009)'. A mellow acoustic opening with added whooshing building and building and building into a classic Faustian jam filled with Zappi's characteristic metronomic rhythms, euphoric trumpet calls, strident guitars and more whooshing. It's bloody fantastic!
Fazio - Elegie
(Faith Strange FS15)
Released at the same time as his release on my Quiet World label this is Mike (Fazio) at his most flamboyant.
Opening the proceedings is a dreamlike and delicate ambient piece that hoers beguilingly behind a set of repeated vocal samples. To be perfectly honest I think the samples outstay their welcome as the music is seductive enough to carry the piece. The second track brings a more compositional edge to the proceedings with piano picking out portentous patterns within a droning swirl.
The album ends in an oneiric soundworld of crystalline tones interwoven with samples taken from early 20th century opera recordings.
Mike stuns me with each new release. The scope of his music and the surety of his compositions produce music of breadth, depth and maturity.
Ferial Confine - First, Second and Third Drop
(Siren Records 014)
Ferial Confine is the name under which Andrew Chalk released his records back in the day. This release is a return to those early recordings (some in a slightly modified state) because hardly anyone has ever got to hear them and they really are rather terrific. They are also very much a product of their time and the 'scene' from which this ascetic emerged. Considerably more metallic and abrasive sounding (think Organum) than the work Andrew would later produce. These recordings do still very much have the sound and feel of his later music along with the painstaking attention to detail apparent in their execution. A factor that is essential to this release avoiding any sort of nostalgia allegations.
Released on Japan's Siren records in the Faraway Press packaging (that we've all come to love so much) this is a timely and compulsive listen that is, as ever, hugely recommended.
Feu Follet & Miina Virtanen - The Icicle Lectures - Vol.1
(Ex Ovo EXO002)
Feu Follet is the pseudonym under which Ex Ovo founder Tobias Fischer produces his music. Here he teams up with Finnish composer and pianist Miina Virtanen. Track one (Silence Thoughts II) is solo Virtanen and is nice enough, technically proficient and musically engaging but nothing you haven't heard before. However, track two brings the two players together to produce a simply beautiful fusion of the organic and the electronic. Virtanen's playing is delicate and lyrical and matched with Fishers deft touch and feather-soft drones they create a wonderfully immersive soundworld reminiscent of Eno at his finest. Here's to volume II.
Five Elements Music – Rishikesh
FEM is, I think, a chap by the name of Sergey Suhovik. This, his contribution to Daniel Crokaert’s series of site and memory specific recordings is an exploration of 2 sites in India – Rishikesh and Vrindaven.
Each piece is a montage of field recordings that, whilst being very nicely assembled and hugely listenable, suffer from the curse of these kinds of albums namely that for the most part the sounds heard have no sense of place; water sounds like water whether it was recorded in my Outer Mongolia or in my bathroom. What raises Suhovik’s recordings out of this trap though is he has allowed room for that most pervasive of sound generators, humans. When the people of the area make their appearance it lifts the piece from the listenable to the absorbing. Ok, so possibly it could be accused of a touch of ‘orientalism’ (see Edward Said) but it certainly gave a real sense of location.
Also welcome is the sound debris of these same humans particularly the section featuring, what I’m going to guess as being, fireworks.
As ever with Unfathomless this is beautifully produced and technically very proficient and a solid contribution to an interesting body of work.
Flu(o) – Encore Remuants
It says here – on the press release – the Flu(o) operated previously under the name Impression as which they released two albums in 2000 and 2004. Now with a more enigmatic and decidedly less terrible new name they return with some new music.
Musically it haunts the borderline between jazz skronk and rock freak-out. The band is a five piece set-up of trumpet, guitar, piano, bass & drums and this suits the music well giving both sides of the stylistic equation a slightly off-beat edge. The tracks are a fairly fiery brew of off-kilter jams that allow each member room to show their chops. There are moments though when that’s not something to recommend like at around the 8 minute 30 mark in the first track when everything degenerates into some utterly horrible AOR style tat.
On the whole though this is good fun. I’ve not listened to any jazz rock in quite some time – truthfully I’m not a huge fan - and this was a nice change especially as it's heavier on the jazz than the rock and they weren’t afraid to wave their avant flag and freak out a little.
The Focus Group - the Elektrik Karousel
(Ghost Box GBX018)
Julian House (The Focus Group) is one of the folks at the core of the Ghost Box label and apart from his various musical excursions is the chap behind all their album designs.
Musically he's almost certainly the most obtuse entity on the roster with the cut and collage style of his music directly referencing that of his design work.
This time out he's working from a deeply psychedelic perspective exploring a sound world littered with sonic debris and shards of dismembered melodies angled, mangled, dangled and spangled with a practiced eye for the absurd, the distracting and the engrossing.
You can feel throughout the musical links he once held with the wonderful Broadcast in the shared vibe of a lost, wistful and slightly confused sense of wanderlust. A desire to roam and amble through the tie-dyed dreamworld of a Britain that never quite was. There's an almost palpable sense of melancholic confusion for the psychedelic Britain where we were promised new colours, new sounds, new aromas, new textures and new flavours before lesser minds and meaner imaginations submerged them into an increasingly grey and torpid mainstream.
Please don't walk away from this review though thinking that what House has produced is simply a tedious patchouli soaked retro rehash of ideas gone by as this music is very much it's own animal. Yes it harks back but it does so in a way that is paying homage to it's forebears whilst simultaneously cutting and re-contextualising into a very modern, vibrant and metropolitan sounding psychedelia.
Fordell Research Unit - Real Men Drink Horse Milk
(Dead Sea Liner 14)
Every few months a package lands on my threadbare blue doormat from the Dead Sea Liner label. This is always a good thing but some months it is a very good thing. This is one of those months. Quite apart from the casual psychedelia of El Heath, the enigmatically named Fordell Research Unit produce a racket that is guaranteed to shake your head bones until they rupture. FRU are a breath of fresh air in a stagnating noise scene. Their compositions are razor sharp and avoid the banal homogeneity of sound and (lack of) vision favoured by many of their contemporaries. 'Real Men Drink Horse Milk' (if this is true then I'll happily remain a fraud) is a short but ferociously effective excursion into their music that'll leave you breathless and demanding more.
I really have no idea what they are researching though.
Formication - Icons for a New Religion
(Lumberton Trading Company LUMB007)
Almost exactly one week before this (and one other (see next months issue)) album hit my doormat a friend sent me a cdr of an earlier Formication release called 'Pieces for a Condemned Piano'. It is exactly what the title implies and is a bold, unique and really quite fantastic musical statement. As a result I had huge hopes for 'Icons for a New Religion' (their first non-self released album) which unfortunately it didn't really live up to. In place of the naturalistic textures and melodies of the earlier release is a move towards a more beat laden and ritualistic Coil-esque pallete. For me it's a move that is ill-advised. Formication are undoubtedly good at this sort of thing, they create some mighty fine dark(wave) soundworlds, and if you've a propensity for black candles, black clothes, black hair and black nail varnish you'll find much to enjoy here but personally it moves me not at all. For every aspect of '...Piano' that I found warm and engaging there is an equal one in 'Icons...' that I found cold and distancing. Recommended for fans of the darker side of life only.
Formication - Agnosia
(Dark Winter harmful005 / dw041)
My previous exposure to the work of the Formication duo of Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft has led to mixed feelings - one album I liked very much and one just wasn't my particular cup of tea. The quality of their work however is undeniable and always shows a scope and maturity of song-writing that is to be admired. So, Agnosia has a heavy burden to carry. Can it swing my opinion one way or the other? And the answer? Yes, it most certainly can, and, I'm extremely happy to report. it's a very fine album. Gone is the 'ritualistic' nature that, for me at least, marred their previous album (Icons of a New Religion) and in it's place is an openness of scope that allows Agnosia the room to breathe and expand to fill every corner of the room.
The driving force behind Agnosia is the sublime use of contrasting yet complimentary rhythms that propel the music along it's chosen path. Often these rhythms are hidden within the melody itself and only really become apparent once Formication let you realise they are there. Further to this is the bewildering array of crisp, coruscating noise tones with which Bowman and Ravenscroft enhance their compositions. Utilising a battery of sounds that rub and grind pulling the listener along in their unsettling and turbulent wake.
Agnosia is a beautifully mature album beholden to no one genre or influence and as such it is heartily recommended.
Forms of Things Unknown - Cross Purposes
Forms of Things Unknown is the work of San Franciscan composer, the eccentrically named, Ferrara Brain Pan and Cross Purposes is an apt title for what emerges to be a diverse but slightly frustrating journey.
Stylistically this ep wanders a meandering path and instrumentally there is much to recommend. F.B.P.’s (primarily) breath powered instrumentation is engrossing particularly on the vocal-free sections of the album. As is often the case for me it is the vocals that push me away. Here they are contained to two consecutive tracks that dominate the middle of the CD. The first attempts a sort of medieval troubadour kinda thing that while being well enough done moved me not. The second vocal track is more…well…I’m not sure what it’s trying to be really. Again, I like the music but the vocals and the lyrics are just piffle.
I really do think FOTU have got something interesting going on here but I don’t think I’m the one to elucidate on just what that is. It all hovers a little too close to the Current 93 & Coil end of the spectrum which isn’t really my cup of tea but it is extremely well made and if you are a fan of the aforementioned bands then you should do yourself a favour and check this out.
Forms of Things Unknown - Black Trenchcoats & Swastikas 'n Shit
The last FOTU album I heard wasn't really my bag. There were a couple of tracks that I liked but on the whole it skirted too close to genres I take little interest in and as such moved me not. This one however is an absolute corker.
A compilation of tracks created between 2003 and 2006 this is a varied beast containing sparse electronica, dada-esque songcraft and european folk tunes amongst others. Almost entirely the work of the, lets say, uniquely named, Ferrara Brain Pan (he has assistance on two tracks (Ure Trall on one track and the assorted members of Nurse With Wound on his remix of Two Shaves And A Shine). Even with the disjointed nature of it's creation this has a far more cohesive feel than the 'Cross Purposes' album. FBP's trademark wind instruments are in full flight but wrapped around them and threaded through them are a plethora of drones, effects, field recordings and inexplicable noises. He does occasionally dip into the ye olde worlde type stuff that I really disliked on the other album but this is kept to a minimum and easily ignored. The rest though is really very good indeed and I've found myself returning to this album often over the last couple of weeks. Although why he would saddle an album this good with such a dreadful title and horrible sleeve art is beyond me.
Fougou - Atlantis (for John Michell)
(Sonic Oyster Records SOR37)
Fougou is the collaborative project of Brian Lavelle and Matthew Shaw. It's my first exposure to Shaw but Lavelle is a regular to these pages and a very welcome one at that. Atlantis is an introspective and ephemeral listen filled with melancholic sighs and slow washes of breathy sound. It's dedicated to John Michell who is described in the sleeve notes as a 'writer & dreamer'. I cannot comment on how the former noun is referenced in the music but the second is all pervasive and the music maintains a satisfyingly oneiric character throughout that I'm sure he would have approved of.
Fougou - Further From the Centre of Disturbance
Fougou is a duo featuring Brian Lavelle and Matthew Shaw. This is their third excursion into CD land and for my ears it's their best - not that either of the others were lacking in any way.
'Further From...' is a 6 song set of shifting droneworks that explore the most inner of outer space sonorities. The synthesized feel of many of the sounds develops a Tangerine Dream type ambience but one seen through the prism of the post-industrial diaspora and aided by a healthy dose of sci-fi articulation.
I love the euphoria that pours from these tracks. There's no soul-searching melancholy here, even at it's most reserved it feels exploratory and filled with curiosity and is an absolute thrill to listen too.
Joe Frawley - The Hypnotist
Frawley's 'The Hypnotist' is the third in an ongoing series of piano and samples collages that are, in his words, 'exploring interior worlds of dream and memory'. Having not heard the previous two I cannot really comment on the cohesiveness of the over-arching concept he outlines in the press notes but what I can comment on is the breathtaking quality of the music. Frawley's piano underlies everything here with a series of gently unfurling loops of melody. Intertwined with this is a simply bewildering array of immaculately placed sound effects and voice samples. It is these disembodied voices that take the lead throughout, pulling and guiding us through the twisted and tortuous dream logic inherent in the compositions. An eerie and utterly compulsive listen that is wholeheartedly recommended.
Freiband & Carlos Villena – Hiss is Panic
(Mantricum Records mantricum 018)
I’ve had these Mantricum releases sat here for far too long and I apologise to Carlos for that.
This one features a track by Villena called Hiss and a remix by Frans (Vital Weekly) de Waard in his Freiband guise.
Strangely it’s the remix that appears first with the puntastic title of ‘Hisspanic’. It’s a more muscular beast than the original with rumbling ambiences occasionally augmented with field recordings.
The original is maybe a more nuanced affair that for the most part sounds like slightly processed field recordings collaged together.
The pair make an interesting ambience that colours the room nicely without being demanding on ones attention.
French Crips - French Crips
(Palmetto Records No 2)
Also recording (with others) under the name Hearts of Palm whose album of the same title was raved over in these pages recently French Crips is the Cincinnati based duo of Jay Wilson and Mike Hancock. In contrast to the abstracted psychedelia of that ensemble this, their duo project, is a much noisier and more (and I use this term loosely and with large reservations) structured set. Far more electronic, rhythmic and downright noisy, French Crips' improvisations are a more aggressive and industrialised beast than that of their counterpart. For me it is HoP which is the more successful project but that is not meant to detract from FC in the slightest as what we have here is a tumultuous noisescape that drags you along in it's wake; bruised, battered and bewildered but also breathless with anticipation as to where they are going to (or through) next.
From The White Chimneys - Nautilus With Wings
(Mystery Sea MS49)
The gentle opening to this new release from the Mystery Sea label belies the dark heart which subsequently reveals itself. One of the noisier releases I've heard from the label and the one with the most obvious and direct reference to the watery theme of the label, From The White Chimneys (Ben Fleury-Steiner & Danny Kreutzfeldt) have created a nicely sub-aquatic set of powerful and dark drones. Isolationist to the point that it leaves you with a sense of being cast adrift in a Victorian diving bell, the sounds you are hearing emanating from the oceanic press that surrounds you and cuts you off from all external stimulation. Every wash, hiss, creak, rumble and rasp takes on an ominous undertone that add to the overall sense of trepidation that simultaneously feels both meticulously planned and utterly natural.
Fukuoka, Garcia, Henritzi, Izarzugaza, Karpenter, Mantizidisor - Taruho
(Le Brutal Records BRR016)
To give that rather daunting array of collaborators their full names they are - Rinji Fukuoka, Miguel A. Garcia, Michel Henritzi, Edorta Izarzugaza, Al Karpenter & Jon Mantizidisor. As to what each persons role is in the grand scheme of this 30-ish set I have no idea. The music is an electrified wall of effected guitar & viola augmented by various clatters and drones. It's a fairly hap-hazard set of improvisations that's a little lacking in depth but it does fill half an hour with some interesting noises and a naive charm.