Review: First released in 1998, the last album from the sadly missed Mark Hollis was originally set to be a Talk Talk album, scheduled to follow up 1991's "Laughing Stock". Described by engineer Phil Brown as "open, restful and at times fantastically beautiful", Hollis' only solo effort is quite the opposite of the dark and claustrophobic direction of Talk Talk's final album. Entirely self-produced, the record takes Talk Talk's pared back, emotive intimacy further into yet more minimal, private territory, of sometimes almost unbearable intensity. A complex, compelling last dispatch from an indisputable genius.
Review: It's hard not to feel moved by Swans. To quote Wayne's World, it's not just a clever name, but rather a band every bit as graceful yet ferocious, beautiful but strong as the bird borrowed from. Take "Annaline", for example. As the first track-proper of this spellbinding collection it's a stop-you-in-your-tracks masterpiece that could force silence on a stadium despite being softly spoken, subtle and serene. It's a motif the outfit seem focused on for this, their 15th studio album. Even at its loudest, title track "Leaving Meaning" mostly plays out like a deranged sermon in some temple of experimental rock. "Sunfucker", for example, has enough reversed-out refrains to make anyone feel they might be in over their head with forces they can't see, let alone comprehend. "It's Coming It's Real" is a display of dark hypnosis. "The Hanging Garden" paints nervous abstract pictures with psychedelic-leaning guitar hooks and manic vocal cries. Put simply, it's perhaps their tensest, most introverted and spellbinding work to date.
Review: No-one could accuse the London-based duo Public Service Broadcasting of lacking ambition-after the runaway success of their debut 'Inform - Educate - Entertain', this second album, whilst still utilising their trademark mixture of archive audio recordings, krautrock and post-rock. focuses conceptually on the '60s space race, and summons up a suitably widescreen and emotionally resonant backdrop for these stirring tales of voyages into the unknown. Both playful and respectful, it's a heartfelt record whose experimental elan matches the ground-breaking nature and sense of wonder of the subject matter, with these soundscapes and grooves sounding forceful and engaging even whilst they're figuratively staring at the stars.
Sugar Foot (feat Jon Anderson & Prairie WWWW) (2:00)
Fort Greene Park (2:00)
Titanium 2 Step (feat Sal Principato) (2:00)
Hiro 3 (1:08)
IZM (feat Shabazz Palaces) (2:00)
Juice B Crypts (2:00)
The Last Supper On Shasta (feat Tune-Yards) (2:00)
Review: Plenty has changed since Battles exploded onto the scene as one of the freshest bands of that moment. Not least within the outfit itself, with departures and instability seeming to run through the very DNA of this troupe. Nevertheless, some things have certainly stayed the same - in particular the complexity and detail in their sound. Synth math prog rock, without wanting to put too fine a point on it. At times it's almost over-facing, that is until you cut through the chaos and start to truly appreciate how good the nuances and intricacies actually are. Highlights come thick and fast, from opener "Ambulance" which nods to playful classical; re-read through chip music before exploding into hypnotic mania. "IZM", which benefits from the appearance of hip hop duo Shabazz Palaces, nods to turn-of-the-century Beasties Boys or Chemical Brothers. And "Sugar Foot" which takes things down a more organic, vocal-driven route. Intelligent and intellectual, not that we expected anything less.
Review: Tangerine Dream's 1975 album Ricochet gets a vinyl reissue. Consisting of only two tracks, both parts of "Ricochet" are shifting soundscapes in the best arpeggiated 70s tradition and bonafide classics of the genre, influencing everyone from Emeralds through Oneohtrix Point Never. Essential.
Review: This collaboration between the sepulchral Sinatra and the kings of ceremonial metallic drone-worship, whilst it is transparently not a work for the faint of heart, is nonetheless worth all the excitement its announcement created in avant-garde circles, and more besides, It's more audibly a work from Walker's than Sunn O)))'s, yet with their assistance the rich melodrama and unflinching abstraction has rarely sounded more startling, or alarmingly approachable. What's more, the counterpoint provided by Sunn O))) to his stentorian baritone elevates proceedings to new heights of otherworldly intensity, resulting in no less than a game-changing triumph, and a clear album of the year contender from this odd couple.
AR & Machines - "I'll Be Your Singer, You'll Be My Song" (2:27)
Deutsche Wertarbeit - "Deutscher Wald" (4:02)
Dzyan - "Khali" (4:40)
Missus Beastly - "Geisha" (5:24)
Alex - "Derule" (2:54)
Agitation Free - "In The Silence Of The Morning Sunrise" (6:33)
Georg Deuter - "Pearls" (2:10)
Michael Bundt - "The Brain Of Oskar Panizza" (8:42)
Popol Vuh - "Ja, Deine Liebe Ist Suber Als Wein" (3:31)
Novalis - "Dronsz" (4:56)
Broselmaschine - "Schmetterling" (9:28)
Neu! - "Neuschnee" (4:04)
Between - "And The Waters Opened" (10:59)
La Dusseldorf - "White Overalls" (2:09)
Klaus Weiss - "Constellation" (1:43)
Achim Reichel - "Tanz Der Vogel In Den Winden" (7:32)
Roedelius - "Lustwandel" (3:52)
Pyrolator - "Die Haut Der Frau" (3:08)
Cluster - "Hollywood" (4:23)
Streetmark - "Passage" (4:23)
Niagara - "Rhythm Go" (2:45)
Michael Bundt - "Neon" (12:30)
Review: If you're in the market for a beginner's guide to krautrock and "kosmiche", then the first two volumes of Soul Jazz's Deutsche Elektronische Musik series should be essential listening. This third volume - the first for four years - should be on that list, too. It arguably goes deeper than its predecessors, combining cuts from pioneering electronic and art-rock bands like Neu!, Cluster and Popol Vuh with tracks from lesser-known artists such as Michael Bundt, Dronsz and Achim Reichel. Musically, it's also far more diverse than its predecessors, containing as much space-rock and proto-punk as early electronic experimentation and droning alternative rock. As ever, the accompanying sleeve notes from author David Nobbs expand on the story in brilliant detail.
Review: Krautrock legends, visionary iconoclasts and one of the most influential bands of the last half century they may be, but not many folk would have had Can pegged as a singles band, given that their origins in the kaftan-clad realm of the late-'60s and early-'70s tended more to full-length explorations in which the full force of their expression could be unleashed. This triple vinyl compilation not only rubbishes this preconception but offers a glimpse into the full spectrum of sound, from the sky-kissing serenades of 'Future Days' to the dancefloor-filling swagger of 'I Want More' and even the unlikely Christmas carol 'Silent Night'. A life-affirming compilation from a gang of longhairs like no other.
Review: Where were you seven years ago? School? High school? College? First job? Last job? Whatever the answer it's certainly not the same place as Efterklang were, and still are. The Danish trio have never been of this world, yet give us so many opportunities to consider the emotion and passion this world offers. The first album to be fully written in their native tongue accentuates those qualities - dreamy soundscapes, different and decidedly bewitching intonation. It's an epic journey, with the likes of "Uden Ansigt" among the most epic, like Bon Iver's vocals slow dancing with the soaring instrumentation of Sigur Ros. "Havet Lofter Sig" ups the beauty, fittingly on the shortest track - gentle pianos, unnaturally pitched backing voices and baritone lead creating real yearning, proving nothing great lasts forever. Or longer than a couple of minutes. Cutting to the chase, it's a mesmerising work you're sure to have on repeat.
Review: The unveiling of an Apparat album is always cause for commotion with the artist influence enough to push radio stations to stream his music 24/7 upon release. Long passages of streaming synth-textures underline the loose and sparse percussive effects of Apparat's jazz and minimalism. The artist's signature bass pulses hit the sweet spot throughout the albums entirety, always inspiring a well of heavy feeling when they do. Touches of the artist's Bpitch Control days remain as does Apparat's always inspired approach when merging instrumentation with outboard gear and technology, beat making and sound design. A sound to cherish once more.
Review: Over the course of their lengthy career, Animal Collective have put out a steady stream of albums that veer between experimental, post-rock soundscapes and skewed, left-of-centre indie-pop. Tangerine Reef, their eleventh and latest set, sees them back in experimental mode, delivering a range of fluid, liquid soundscapes inspired by their work with art-science filmmakers Coral Morphologic. All of the album's music was written to soundtrack a film by the latter duo, which can be watched in full on Animal Collective's website. Aurally, the album is indicative of the slowly shifting visuals - built around time-lapse style footage of coral growing - and tends towards the dreamy, otherworldly and drowsy.
Review: Belated vinyl issue of the excellent second LP from Musiccargo for the Dusseldorf fanatics! It may well be the seventh release on Emotional Response, but the label happy Stuart Leath will tell anyone in close proximity that the Musiccargo pairing of Gerhard Michel and Gordon Pohl were largely inspirational in his decision to start the label. Probably most widely known for the early appearance on James Holden's DJ Kicks mix of their remix of "Disco" by Grackle, Musiccargo are modern day exponents of the Krautrock sound pioneered by Dusseldorf acts like Can, Cluster and Neu. Harmonie arrives some four years after the duo's highly sought after debut album Hand In Hand and the six track album is a sumptuous 'adult kraut' delight from start to end.
Review: Once again using an ambitious conceptual framework to house a record which draws on historical texts and multimedia sources alongside their widescreen melange of post-rock, prog, dance and ambient stylings, 'Every Valley' deals with the Welsh mining industry and its trials and travails in the last half of the twentieth century. A project as mighty as the industry it chronicles, it resonates with emotive heft and atmospheric power whilst being careful not to overly romanticise its subject matter - this is fundamentally a deeply melancholic album, chronicling the slow demise of a way of life with spirit, clarity and sensitivity, not to mention musical invention.
Review: HTRK's debut album in 2007 proved to be a seminal one for fans of experimental noise. It cooks up impressively abrasive and caustic textures, crashing waves of white noise and sonorous pulses that speak of a future dystopian world. Tense and absorbing throughout, the lo-fi design and elements of post punk, post industrial and post techno makes it a modern analogy of the likes of Throbbing Gristle. 12 years later, the record sounds just as good, and arguably even more prescient in these twitchy times of digital surveillance, social anxieties and worldwide political tensions. It might be bleak, then, but that doesn't mean there is real beauty in this album's disharmony.