10 Records that Brian Conniffe Cannot Live Without

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Brian Conniffe is a cross-genre, experimental musician. His work is notable for a style which fuses the darkest psychedelia with disquieting ambience. He has worked with a long list of collaborators covering a diverse stylistic range, from experimental pioneers Nurse With Wound, through a variety of unique improvisation projects, to synthpop acts such as Patrick Kelleher And His Cold Dead Hands and Catscars.
A particular emphasis is on working with visual media and expansive cinematic soundscapes, including providing the soundtracks to the feature films The Poorhouse Revisited, Smolt, and At One Fell Swoop by director Michael Higgins.
His work features on recordings such as Nurse With Wound’s Musique Pour Faits Divers (Lenka Lente, 2016) and Revenge Of The Selfish Shellfish (Robot Records, 2009), Everything Shook’s 2015 debut 7″ EP, and the Conniffe / Suzanne Walsh / Diarmuid MacDiarmada 12″ mini-album (Lumberton Trading Company, 2013).
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Coil How To Destroy Angels – Remixes And Re-Recordings(Threshold House, 1992)
Coil’s work from 1992 to 1999 is notably abstract in nature, and somewhat understated when compared with their more widely regarded song-based albums, but to me contains their most interesting and rewarding material. I especially recommend seeking out Black Light District, Time Machines, Moon’s Milk In Four Phases and this release of reworkings of their debut. An otherworldly and meditative invocation of martial energy, it has the power to make any environment appear distinctly alien.
The original release exemplifies the kind of Ritual Musick which emerged out of the original Industrial music scene in the early ’80s at its very best. Possibly due to an actual engagement and understanding Coil had with occultism, rather than the more obviously superficial approach – a de rigueur co-opting for pretence of depth or danger – many of their contemporaries in this field chose.
Remarkable cover artwork from Derek Jarman – an individual of inspiring personal courage – also, and the Steven Stapleton remix is the undoubted highlight, another beautiful version of that piece can be found on Nurse With Wound’s superb album Lumb’s Sister.
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Mirror Visiting Star(Three Poplars, 2000)
Andrew Chalk and Christoph Heemann’s Mirror is, to my tastes, the greatest ambient music project ever. Their sublime albums Visiting Star, Eye Of The Storm, and Mirror Of The Sea are just the absolute pinnacle of the form. Mirror may be less well known than Stars Of The Lid, The Caretaker and William Basinski but their work remains often superior to all of them.
Visiting Star is aural valium, the one word in particular I would use for this masterpiece of tranquility is “useful”.
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Crass Penis Envy (Crass Records, 1981)
By far and away not only my favourite Crass album ever but my favourite (even remotely close to) “punk” record ever. But really they just completely transcend that genre, they seem so far ahead from any other punk bands of the time (so many of which just sound so safe and conservative musically), being a lot closer to what post-industrial acts were doing contemporaneously.
Great album title, packaged in fantastic artwork and with great lyrics throughout, an anti-establishment polemic which still sounds relevant today. The opener ‘Bata Motel’ is especially outstanding lyrically: incredibly scathing, vicious and fabulously written stuff. The vocal performance on ‘Systematic Death’ is another highlight: the song seems to take off like a rocket at one point… And ‘Health Surface’ shows how peculiar and playful the band were capable of being.
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Pandit Ram Narayan Inde Du Nord(Ocora, 1971)
You can randomly pick any release from the Ocora record label and it will most likely be a revelation, but it’s the Indian classical ones featuring L. Subramaniam and Pandit Ram Narayan that I put on the most. Breathtaking and intoxicating, elegant and pensive, music doesn’t get any deeper and richer than this.
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Comus First Utterance(Dawn Records, 1971)
One-of-a-kind album of wild, Pan-invoking, barbarous, anti-christian folk. Often imitated and inspirational, but never equaled.
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Ashanti and Ewe tribes of Ghana Drums Of Death (Avant, 1997)
Incredible album of traditional West African drumming, this is extremely powerful music – the density of the polyrhythms hypnotise and exhilarate – superbly recorded for maximum intensity.
The title of the release is misleading (not all of these are funerary pieces, some function as recreational dances), with the unfortunate effect of making this music seem ‘darker’ than it actually is to uninformed Western ears, and there are also a couple of very mangled transliterations in the track titles and some misinformation in the liner notes.
Despite that, I’m very grateful that this recording was made available for the wider world to hear. And that said, this is long overdue a reissue and I would love to see this given a deluxe vinyl treatment with corrected titles and more knowledgeable text.
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Robert Ashley Automatic Writing (Lovely Music, 1979) 
One of the strangest, most genuinely unique, pieces of music ever. Sounds a bit like drifting in the hypnagogic state between sleep and waking, occasionally engaging in pillow talk with the contents of the words slipping away into the endless eternity of dream, while a party is going in a nearby building.
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Aaliyah Ultimate (Blackground Records, 2005)
Hearing the deeply intoxicating and vibrantly seductive More Than A Woman upon its release in 2001 was the epiphany which caused my Damascene conversion from music snobbery to a whole world of exploring all kinds of music, regardless of how ‘cool’ or ‘serious’ they may have been generally considered to be.
Especially, I quickly developed an abiding love of U.S. R&B pop, a style reaching a notable creative peak at that time. Aaliyah is still my single favourite singer, and her best songs – collected on this compilation – often represent the finest ever work by Timbaland and Missy Elliott.
Some notable masterpieces include ‘One In A Million’, where every sound is absolutely perfect, ‘We Need A Resolution’, with that serpentine orchestral sample, the weird non-verbal voice cut-ups, trippy bouncy rhythm and subtle vocal effects, and ‘Are You That Somebody’, Timbaland’s most inspired production, a truly bizarre composition that perfectly exemplifies his genius. But really all of these songs exhibit immaculate production with brilliant clarity and colour to all the sounds used.
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Duke Ellington The Okeh Ellington (Colombia, 1991)
A collection of classics recorded between 1927 and 1930. Just so charming and uplifting, everyone I’ve played this to has enjoyed it.
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Ramleh Homeless(Freek Records, 1994)
Though they are probably best known for their ‘80s power electronics work, which does remain remarkable, somehow managing to be simultaneously grey and psychedelic, violent and melancholic, it’s the magnificent material of the ’90s incarnation of Ramleh that most excites me, representing the most satisfying rock band to my tastes that I’ve ever heard. Certainly the most underrated: I am bewildered by how under-appreciated this band remain. All their releases from 1991 to 1997 – from Blowhole to Boeing – are outstanding.
For a perfect example of the might of this act, check out the title track from this album: eighteen minutes of gloriously blissed-out noise rock, transcending the genre and everyone else in it.
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