Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Sasha Conda - Bronco

"Bronco Stephenson - a man devoid of self doubt or the capacity for deep thought, but exceedingly effective in more carnal procedures. Armed with a solid gold hand cannon, a long territorial strut and a fierce addiction to adrenaline, inhalants and psycho-inhibitors, Bronco carves a path through The Palace Interior - a hyper-terrarean ultra mall the size of a city. A mecca of consumeristic glee where half-jacked vape junkies crowd the halls of The Walgreen’s Health Services Stratum, and The Plasticmen survey every square inch of marketable real estate."

That's what it says on the Bandcamp page, anyway. Bronco is a concept album from Sasha Conda (music) and Patrick Scott-Walsh (words), who appear to hail from Minneapolis. Out on the hipster-sating medium of cassette with story-book, I want to hate this, but it's just a little too good. 

There are some beautiful arrangements on display in an album that maintains a dramatic, 80s superhero soundtrack feel throughout, but manages to surprise the listener by drifting into unusual rhythms and ethereal atmospherics at the same time. There are elements of Cumbia, Electronica, even Trance jostling with crescendoing Electronica, arpeggiated Synthpop and psychedelic swirls, all underpinned by the driving, retro sound currently enjoying a resurgence (for good reason, I might add).

Released by the ever-interesting Not Not Fun Records, Bronco is reminiscent of Synthwave artists such as Com Truise and Matthew Dear, while retaining its own distinct sound.

As I don't have a cassette player I'll just stick to the digital release while lamenting the lack of what would be a beautiful record. Although having said that, the cover art is pretty hideous. Not really sure why they gave the brief to a thirteen year old boy who just got Photoshop for his birthday, which is what I assume they did.

You can buy it here and listen to snippets of all the tracks via Juno, but the rest of the internet appears to only house the 3 singles, which you can check out below

Freak of The Week - 8 - Yellow Magic Orchestra - Firecracker / Technopolis

Some glitchy, ahead-of-its-time computer game synth pop for this installment of Freak of the Week... all the way from Japan.

Yellow Magic Orchestra (AKA YMO) were (are?) a pioneering group of musicians credited with influencing the early days of synthpop, electro and electronica. Using samples and drum machines before most people considered them 'proper' instruments, they forged sounds that seem less wild today than they would have in 1979, when this particular 12" came out. To be fair, this could have been a Charity Shop Gem of the Week as it was picked up in a bargain bin for 99p many years ago, but I feel its combination of glitchy 8-bit sounds, peculiar synthesis and the ridiculously long build-up to Firecracker make it a glorious candidate for Freak of the Week instead.
Also worth noting there are some serious samples to be pilfered if you're that way inclined!

Each of the 3 tracks is deliciously wonky and has that Japanese sense of wonder - I love it.

And of course you can pick up a copy for peanuts at Discogs

Charity Shop Gem of the Week - 9 - The Bonzo Dog Band - Keynsham

As a rule I try to steer clear of these sort of knowingly 'wacky' records that seemed so abundant in the 60's and 70's, and as such never paid too much attention to the Bonzo Dog Band. Having recently stumbled across a Keynsham however, I found myself drawn by it's title - a small and not particularly cool civil parish near where I grew up. Musically the album is pretty adept, with some quite lovely arrangements spread across guitars, drums, horns, flutes and basses, all held together by lyrics than oscillate from the overwrought prog fare one might expect, and the intensely silly. The album harbours a penchant for sudden changes in style and various spoken word/comedy segments, akin to Monty Python, and manages to be (nearly) as funny. Gems such as Tent offer up passages such as 'my love is so inscrutable / in a stoic sort of way / my baby is as beautiful / as a tourniquet' in a charged, almost punkish manner, whilst the operatic Sport has a wonderfully overblown chorus, ostensibly about the wonders of P.E.
Lyrics aside, there is actually some surprisingly contemporary aspects at play - whilst many of the tracks sound a bit like The Beatles (or perhaps more suitably, The Rutles), tracks like Noises for my leg sound like an early incarnation of Add N to X, and there are even a few dashes of what might be considered Musique Concrete, were it in any other context.

Were this an entirely serious late 60's pop/rock album, it would be a very, very good one. I fear the addition of humour relegates it to 'oddity' rather than 'classic', perhaps explaining it's lack of commercial success, especially given it comes not long after the bands fairly popular television show.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Freak of The Week - 7 - The In Sound From Way Out! (Perrey-Kingsley)

Beastie Boys fans will recognise this record title, and indeed cover art, font and graphic style - the Beasties released a 1995 album of the same name that looks remarkably similar to Perrey-Kingsley's 1966 escapade into experimental synth-pop psychedlia. In turn, that record owes a lot to the influence of another 'delia' - not psyche-delia, but Delia Derbyshire, the pioneering sound designer famous for her work with the BBC during the 60s. See what i did there? That's journalism, baby.

The In Sound From Way Out is a remarkable collection of standards and hits a la mode, reimagined using the trusty Moog synthesizer, plus field recordings, found sounds, tape splicing and many other experimental techniques... from children laughing and splashing about in the bath to what sounds like someone snoring, sped up. The results are some quite remarkable sounds, with some choice loops appearing throughout that will delight many a producer.

Also worth mentioning is some superior recording and mixing - many similar records suffered from muddy, dull mixes, but this record has splendid depth of sound and is beautifully mixed. Well worth searching out... but let us do the work for you... here's its Discogs entry 

And you want to hear it as well? Bloody hell... alright, fine!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

VARIOUS - Library Of Sound Grooves: Obscure Psychedelic Manuscripts From The Italian Cinema 1967-1975

If ever a record title was going to relieve me of my cash, it's this... every word in the overlong title has me screaming 'Shut up and take my money!' while I log in to my Juno account and feverishly hit 'buy'.
I didn't even listen to it, which was a foolish move - I've certainly been burnt in the past. Sometimes just throwing the word 'psychedelic' in front of a genre can conveniently hide the utter dearth of likability in a record.

So, this foolish record collector opened the sleeve full of trepidation... the cover has tits on... good start... actually its collage of 70s B-movie stills is quite cool... 

Tell you what, I wasn't half impressed by the music. Dann reeled off a bunch of 'famous' composers that feature, that I felt perhaps i should have heard of, but in my ignorance I just feasted on a smorgasbord of prominent, funky bass riffs, strong percussion and psychedelic arrangements. there are slow ones, fast ones, funky ones and jazzy ones, but not a dud in sight. Impressively remastered, each song across 2 records sounds crisp, raw and sufficiently powerful that any DJ out there will not find them wanting amongst funk records of the same era.

Listen and buy below

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Week 8 - Charity Shop Gem of the week: Cignol - Logan Systems EP

Ok, so it might be a bit of a stretch to call this either a 'Charity shop' find, or for that matter a 'gem', but this is a record of note one-the-less. Discovered in a box marked 'free records!' left outside a local pub, this was one of several fairly unbearable forays into drum 'n bass / dub-step territory left out upon the pavement, all of which are, on first listen, pretty bloody trite. This particular 12' however, has that peculiar charm wherein a not-very-good record thats played at the wrong speed, suddenly becomes quite-a-good record after all. Gone are the ADHD beats of the original, gone are the all too rhythmic wub-wubs - in their stead we are left with a jaunty, almost early-electro beat, and a pulsing, robotic bass-line straight from the bowels of some swing-less, impossible to program 80's sequencer. Everything about this record improves with a drop in speed - it's both heavier and less cheesy, it's timbres more delicate, less obviously constructed from a 'Massive' preset. I could be being hard on the original - its genre is so far from my cup of tea that its virtually Horlicks (does that work? Probably not). The fact remains however, that it is a far superior record with a nice bit of jaunt.

This is the moment where I would normally provide a link.. however such is the obscurity of this catch, that I can find literally nothing about it online - it's record label has closed down, the artist has a soundcloud page but has not uploaded any music to it, and the record is not held by a single online distributor in any form. In absence of any audio or visual addendums to the Logan Systems EP, I will leave you instead with the next best thing - a poster from the similarly epithetic Logans Run:

Image result for logans run

Friday, 9 October 2015

Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Three: river run thee

I am still buzzing from catching Matana Roberts live earlier this week, a performance which immediately entered my 'top 5 ever' category. Matana's work springs from a fairly unusual place - political, experimental jazz with a sort of Max Roach feel, yet avoiding ever really becoming free-jazz - a move that makes her sound especially unique given that much contemporary jazz seems to oscillate between twee Coltrane/Davis rip-offs and free-er than free brass-noise affairs. Her last two albums have evoked a sort of ghostly big-band sound, coming off like a particularly drunk and somber Duke Ellington interrupted by often viscous, howling, feminist poetry. The new album differs in so far that it incorporates far more samples - odd snippets of Matana's manipulated voice, drones, clicks, and other unidentifiable and vaguely industrial sounds. There is still Jazz in here mind - both the wonderfully virtuosic (and dare I say pleasant) saxophone that underpins the whole thing, and the creeping sections of more fully fleshed brass-work underneath. The thing that really makes the work shine however, is the unrepentant fury that shines through every second of it, a drenching rage that blossoms as she repeats the same handful of words over and over again, placing them in a seemingly improvised fashion over the dense and juxtaposed sound-world. This is by far her most difficult album, by virtue of its propensity for repetition and minimalism, not her most unpleasant - gone are the anguished howls of her first album, replaced instead by a more mature, but no less pained utility of words, each repeated until they lose all meaning, cycling through humour, anger, joy and sorrow with each iteration.

Mouse on the Keys - The Flowers of Romance

Arriving some 6 years after their last album, An Anxious Object, the new Mouse on The Keys album is notably weirder than their debut, whilst still retaining the danceable, piano post-rock of the original. Having previously paired a couple of keyboards with some exceptionally proficient drumming, the new album adds in a whole plethora of additional textures - saxophones, drum machines, drones, and a bloke from Envy on guitar. It is one of a few albums that could be described as post-rock and isn't A) made entirely by twenty-something white boys, and B) ludicrously boring. The Flowers of Romance manages to mix songs your mum would like alongside fodder for your most experimental art-wanker friend, and does so with a surprising degree of cohesion and musicality -indeed, I struggle to think of anyone who wouldn't be impressed by the scope, technicality, experimentation, and sheer fun this album offers.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Freak of The Week - 6 - Jungle Exotica 2

I'm almost certain that all the bands on this record are white-American, which probably makes it all a bit racist. At the very least, it's almost offensive in its caricaturing of 'tribal' music, like blacking up and shouting 'Um Bongo, Um Bongo, they drink it in the Congo' while your band plays polyrhythyms and make gorilla noises.

But, having said all that, there is something interestingly playful about this collection of madcap 50's/60's 'exotic' rock n' rollers. Occasionally catchy riffs, and a genuine sense of fun pervade. It's probably akin to the Black and White Minstrel Show in its cultural sensitivity. Only the music is actually pretty wild and you kind of can't help but be charmed by the whole thing. Songs called things like 'Arabian Jerk' maybe a touch on the offensive side, but there are a few stand out moments such as The Tides' Midnight Limbo. Annoyingly, a few of the tracks from the CD didn't make the vinyl release, but overall it's a pretty interesting compilation from Crypt Records, and a worthy winner of our Freak of The Week!

Incidentally, I've featured Volume 2 purely because that's the copy I picked up - no idea what Volume 1 is like but I'm interested to find out!

Have a listen here

And buy it direct from Crypt here (US) or Discogs here 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Kamasi Washington - The Epic 1, 2. 3 plus poster triple vinyl

Brainfeeder continue to plough their furrow as champions of young(ish), experimental jazz composers with this triple vinyl press that follows its CD release earlier this year. The composer in question is 34 year old Kamasi Washington, an LA-based musician who previously won the John Coltrane Music Award at the tender age of 18. In the last couple of years he's guested on sax for names as diverse as they are famous - Stanley Clarke, Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar.
This triple vinyl package (complete with poster) is an imposing body of work, 17 tracks averaging around the 10 minute mark, of shifting, crescendoing jazz reminiscent of Stanley Clarke himself in places, as well as Miles Davis, Coltrane, Max Roach and Duke Ellington. It's very much a traditional jazz affair - there are no electronic/production tricks at work - just high-quality musicianship and hauntingly beautiful compositions that sound impressively timeless.
The Epic could easily be a dusty opus from 1961 in a faded, nicotine-stained sleeve. As it happens, it's a modern work of astonishing vision, with a depth of sound many can only dream of.

Listen here:

Buy it here:

Stone's Throw 45s Crates

Well, this is a bit sexy... legendary beats label Stone's Throw have released these stunning looking record crates for your 45s. For those who don't know, Stone's throw are the world-renowned psychedelic beats label founded by Peanut Butter Wolf, and having provided a home for artists such as J Dilla, Madlib, Dam Funk and a multitude of esteemed names, their global stock is pretty high. As far as I know, this is their first venture into vinyl storage, and it certainly looks as cool as you'd expect from a perennially taste-making outfit.
At $45 plus postage it's not cheap, but actually they're not as dear as I thought they would be - I tend to pay £20 for my bog standard wood boxes, and would be happy to add a few quid for these lovely little things.Yum.

Buy here:

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Week 6 - Charity shop gem of the week - Golden Avatar - A change of heart

Only days after the pope announces plans to release a God-themed prog-rock album, I stumble across this similar effort by Golden Avatar, dedicated to the wonders of the Hare Krishna's own Vedic beliefs.  What is ostensibly a fairly standard folk-prog affair, is lifted into the realms of oddity by both the pronounced nature of its theme - replete with multiple "Hare Krishna" chants per song - and its propensity for cheesy, orchestral jazz and funk sweeps. The lyrical content - often the downfall o f such albums - manages to avoid any horrendous mis-steps (despite repeatedly referencing 'the soul' and other potential cliches), and there are some genuinely epic riffs underpinning it all. Far catchier than many of the more famous examples of the genre, and yet concurrently far less pompous, the album is the kind that makes you wonder why it relishes in relative obscurity, whilst the likes of Yes!, ELP, or even Pink Floyd have become household names. I suspect the answer lies in its more heart-felt approach - though offering the convoluted trimmings the prog genre is known for, its content is grounded in a very real, very earnest belief in its subject matter. It also has a fine drawing of some fairies on the front cover.