Reviews 2010 to 2014

Due to the fact that the physical format version of Adverse Effect has been in suspended animation for a considerable while now (although this will be remedied soon), this section presently rounds up reviews culled from the last few years by our team of highly trained critics. More reviews will be added every week or so, old and new, so please keep checking in.

Naturally, all the opinions expressed in the reviews are those of the author and not necessarily shared by the editor/publisher of Adverse Effect or the others involved. 

More review material thoroughly welcome, but please take into consideration both our preferences and the fact we do not have time for all the download and streaming links that are thrust in our direction. There is nothing personal in this, either. Rather, we have enough on our hands with physically published material, plus prefer to support this anyway.

Reviewers: Anton Black (AB), Richard Johnson (RJ), Kate MacDonald (KM), Steve Pescott (SP), Matthew Dyson (MD) Richard Fontenoy (RF) and Thomas Shrubsole (TS)

MUSIC

TETUZI AKIYAMA, TOM CARTER, CHRISTIAN KIEFER  The Darkened Mirror CD (Monotype, Poland, 2013)

Dried open spaces with cactus saguaro or peyote and tumbleweed moods/modes. It took me a while to place what the ringing tone and string bending of Tom Carter’s guitar was reminding me of until the Wild West vibe clicked and I realised it was John Cippolina in Quicksilver Messenger Service, specifically their own subtle re-visioning of the ‘West from The Filmore, Happy Trails’.

Volume pedal swells, fingerpicking, accordian. Danny Fleischer stylings, free banjo, clumping rhythms and subtly kosmic tints recall both the circle-dance volk-celebrations of Popul Vuh circa Einsjager Siebensjager and the spidery jutting vectors of Derek Bailey’s Aida.

In this effectively deconstructed western/psych/blues tropes (with the odd continental European folk-sounding flourish thrown in) what’s most effective is how the space is mapped out, notes thrown out as outliers like an intimate setting of Dark Star for sober-minded and existential cowpokes or musical-gold prospectors. Free-floating rips into blues-tone, spartan, around here a person has plenty of room to breathe. It might have been nice if some of the almost accidental coalescing into composed-sounding moments were fleshed out even more but, even so, this record, an open structure, ghost towns and wind pumps, vital and desiccated and wide with psych history is a welcome diversion to a no horse town. A Driftingman’s Dead, so to speak; the transitive nightfall of ashes from a camp-fire extinguished silhouetted against a starry desert sky with only the maiden of the cancer moon to light the way. (TS)

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ANEMONE TUBE Death Over China CD (Topheth Profit/Silken Tofu, Israel/Belgium, 2012)

First things first: Stop releasing albums with angled photos of European statues in black and white on the cover and images of violent history on the inside. It doesn’t matter if it’s related to the subject matter that inspired you, or that you believe it’s beautiful. About seventy thousand albums in the “martial industrial” and “power electronics” genres have come out with artwork that looks exactly like that. Putting out an album that looks like that now is the equivalent of dropping the fruits of your labour in a baggy with a note that says “we have no imagination”. In fact, that would be more imaginative.

And the thing is, having that be the first thing that someone sees will inevitably lead some to assume that the album is going to be standard, rigidly formulaic fare, which would be selling this album a little short. Not a lot short, but this isn’t your typical industrial-by-numbers fare.

Anemone Tube rely on a grinding, churning base that does sound rather like how I imagine the machine house where the labourers toiled during the industrial revolution. The first track builds slowly, almost imperceptibly, with its mechanical groans rising to an almost musical pitch. The second track grows more intense, but follows a similar format. “Similar format” is my way of saying that, while I sort of enjoyed what was going on, I did sense a sameness carrying through the whole affair.

When I heard the addition of sampled voices that sounded like snippets of public speeches (Oh boy! This must be the controversial political part!), I cringed, but I give the band credit for keeping the voices on the level of background noise, indistinct, part of the bleak scenery, until almost the album’s end. They were so close to really defying an expectation…

The music does have a dark, uneasy atmosphere that I find is done best at the album’s least noisy moments. The more the walls of static-y noise get pumped up, the more the whole thing starts to sound like a megamix of the Tesco records back catalogue. Before it gets to that point, while there are definite stylistic nods to Les Joyaux and (even moreso) to Empty Hollow-era Raison d’Etre, it maintains a more original edge.

Ultimately, it’s not without its charm. The music included is less predictable than the attractive but tired artwork would lead you to believe, thus proving something about judgments, books and covers that is probably more clichéd than industrial album artwork. (KM)

http://www.silkentofu.org/

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ANITA Hippocamping CD (Wildrfid, Switzerland, 2012)

Following a solitary compilation appearance issued by the same label, this is Anita’s debut, spreading a neat enough array of crookedness over eleven cuts (one of which is actually credited to Bulb, presumably an alias of this already mysterious enough artist) that wouldn’t seem out of place on FatCat. Rudimentary clanking, broken rhythms, skewed electronic melodies and miniscule disturbances all bind together with an accidental feel that may or may not be intentional but works regardless. Thankfully, the hints of childishness or tweedom to be found creeping in to tracks such as ‘Chat du Nord’ (which even begins with a child’s voice) are kept in check by something altogether stranger, bringing Hippocamping closer, at times, to Ranaldo & the Loaf than, say, the work of a vague contemporary such as Leafcutter John. In this latter respect, fourth cut ‘Tangora’, with its toy soldier drumming, eerie swirls and building towards a melodic bridge almost falling in on itself, serves a particular highlight. What is ultimately agreeable, however, is that are many disparate elements here that are all fashioned into something cohesive yet still sits outside conformist songwriting. ‘Dun’, by Bulb, is as close as the album gets to a more regular song, although even this fragments towards the end.

Ultimately, as far as more fractured and disheveled electronica is concerned, Anita has cooked up a fine debut. Let’s hope she continues to forage those places less easy to discern or immediately hold on to next time, too. (RJ)

http://www.wildrfid.net/

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AQUAVOICE Grey CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2013)

A combination of nice enough sounds and subtle noises woven into the framework of Grey help hoist this above the usual slew of releases where atmospheric electronics serve the main axis. Pinned down by occasional slo-mo rhythms and embellished at times by (possibly sampled or digitalised) strings, as well as the random and all-too-brief appearance of a voice, this album, by Polish artist Tadeusz Luczejko, reeks with confidence and imagination enough to transport it past its evident roots in post-industrial and chilled out ambient music. ‘Glassgames’, with its almost Liles-like array of surreal disturbances giving way to The Orb having a mental breakdown, is a particular highlight. (RJ)

 http://zoharum.com/ 

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AREV KONN Nospelt CD (Humming Conch Records, Germany, 2010)

London-based ambient electronicist Antony Harrison will be more recognisable to some under the working pseudonym of Konntinent. His synthi/processed guitar work having garnered a truckload of releases over time, from labels such as Phantom Channel, Sweat Lodge Guru and Debacle. Arev Konn comes as another facet of the Harrisonian mindset; this time, however, one where the

noisesome elements (buried deeper in Konntinent’s scheme of things), have now been coaxed to the foreground and then captured in glorious iron oxide on tape machinery of some forty years vintage.

Antony’s use of six-string/piano/tapes, etc. take on an almost industrialized edge, especially within the fog bank drones and garbled vocal haze of the eerie ‘Fourth Peninsula’, while jack plug crackle and the repetitious clunk of an old stuck record form the core of ‘Saffron Calls’.

However, the most intriguing (and for me the most successful) development from this approach comes in the very last piece, ‘False Starts’; this being a more measured construct which seems to contain a surge of incoming transmissions from Jodrell Bank’s radio telescope dish. These signals eventually fall away to reveal a series of bittersweet piano figures that sound as if they’ve drifted out from the confines of a Victorian drawing room.

By the way, Pit Weber; an ex Konntinent member, supplied some extra field recordings from his studio in Nospelt, Luxembourg. Hence the title…so now you know…. (SP)

http://www.hummingconch.net/

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BENE GESSERIT ‘The Second Benefit’ 7″ e.p. (EE Tapes, Belgium, 2014)

Three ‘new’ tracks take up one side of this neat little slice of limited edition vinyl by Belgium’s long-running BeNe GeSSeRiT, which is generally the most recognised of Alain Neffe’s projects and has existed since the early ’80s. These new tracks, recorded and produced between 2009 and 2014,  further expand Alain’s own take on a  strain of minimalist electronica that attempts to be ‘pop’ but is too (healthily) mired in its own quirkiness and obvious (yet modest) cleverness to actually transcend its being anything other than either a novelty or a smart departure into melody for those who usually want their music to bare teeth. Inventiveness on a DIY scale has little appeal beyond the confines of cultdom, unfortunately, and the outward-bound alien pop here has oodles of it. The combination of beats, loops, bizarre electronics, scuffed shards of polite noise, dark forest vocals and simple structures add to something deeply listenable and engaging.  On one hand, I hear tinges of The Residents, Tuxedo Moon and The Flying Lizards here and, on the other, I can hear Sleaford Mods if they tried to be The Human League after they let those daft checkout girls join.  Infectuous and downright fun, this fucking delivers.

The three flipside tracks have been previously released and perhaps suffer for their being slightly dated, but are still worth sliding comfortably into regardless.

Only 250 pressed, with the proceeds going towards Alain’s recording costs. Do something and support this eclectic and truly idiosyncratic artist by purchasing a copy. (RJ)

http://www.eetapes.be/

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CHIP SHOP MUSIC with TOSHIMARU NAKAMURA Protocol CD (Mathka, Poland, 2012)

For the players – an approach to group sound. A conduct, a discipline. A use of certain techniques, a determined set of sounds. For the listener – a protocol is also required, almost demanded.

This is in some ways quite extreme music, on initial exposure, at any rate. I popped the CD on at spare moments a couple of times and listened to enough to get a sense that to listen properly, correctly, with the correct protocol, you might say, I would need to set aside an appropriate time and headspace in order to engage fully on the terms the music sets by its very nature.

Protocol’s two long (perceptually long, as well) tracks clock up about twenty-five minutes or so, each. Both are immaculately recorded and mastered documents of live performances, each in a different space. The group, including Mr Nakamura, comprises five individuals playing a non-standard array of percussion, woodwind and electronics. The general type of territory we encounter, without describing the specifics of the particular terrain, when the CD begins is that of a droning, free improv in lower case – low volume, restrained dynamic range, spartan conventional musical information. Some twenty-five-minute tracks can go past in the blink of an eye, relatively, but there is no rushing through either tracks or individual sounds, here. Perhaps it is this deliberate pacing that never hurries ahead of itself, or perhaps the analogy suggests itself more readily because I’m a walker, but I find the experience of listening to these tracks akin to moving through various different locales over the course of a long ramble, each environment encountered must be negotiated at the pace that conditions underfoot dictate, all the while absorbing the particular characteristics of the milieu; shaded areas, open skies, different fields, all experienced within a larger, unifying landscape with its own general character.

Threshold of hearing tones gradually usher us in as the CD spins; hearing, attention, is, hopefully, appropriately calibrated accordingly. Small, high, sounds are progressively separated into component strands and rethreaded, extended, patiently and unhurriedly digitally explored. The group members include two woodwind players, and the reedy, breathy nature of the alto and baritone saxophones and clarinet employed, without ever stooping to something as recognisable as a melody, or even a discrete note in the conventional register of the instruments, imparts a tangible, granular, raspy acoustic quality to the screeds of high register multiphonic tone that accumulate ever so patiently. Saxophone tones are dragged out until they resemble the cello playing of Joëlle Léandre or Conrad Schnitzler or the hiss of insects or breath. Wisps of high frequency, patterings of bells and gong tones (as well as Nakamura, presumably adding feedback tones from his desk, the complement of the group is rounded out by two percussionists) and digital ruptures are woven into an organic sonic carpet which in its intricacy and non-representational nature resembles a living eco-system or process, somewhat in the manner of David Tudor’s Rainforest, although of a different nature and arrived at by different means. Minute events occur in the topsoil, mists hang at eye level and about the head, winds snake through bare branches, pervasive moisture and cold is penetrated patchily by the warmth of exhaled breath, the hum and hiss of various nerve-systems operating out of doors hover subliminally at the edges of perception. More distinguishable sounds are picked out within the soundfield: screeches like rusted gates, brain-activating upper threshold sine tones, softly clattering rusted gongs, breath as if heard internally while pushing through a particularly physical misty nocturnal atmosphere. An environmental noise-scape arrived at through instrumental means.

There is a tactile mix of acoustic and computer generated/modulated textures, neither of which parade their origins. Group unity, focus and transparency of playing create a music that is woven into an almost severe yet beguiling tapestry of continuous sound where no human agency or personality reveals an overt presence; all is in the oblique movement and accumulated detail of sustained, although not saturated, sound. All here is subsumed to the concentration of the players and the one-pointed demand of the drone that they fabricate, white eyes peering out, scanning darkened trees and encroaching twilight horizons from under lowered brows. This is a music of restrained gesture, dynamic range, colour and palette that burrows down into intense focus, a music of small gestures and layers of accretion, packed with incident and contrast at micro level, stretched out past – implied? conventional? expected? – duration and relentlessly sustained on the macro level.

Protocol is employed throughout to great effect. There is an agreement to submit to slowly evolving structures, to work out the implications of small sounds in a large temporal canvas. There may be periods of what could seem aimlessness, backtracking, or where the group aren’t gelling, perhaps, but to return to my walking metaphor this is the equivalent of getting into your stride or temporarily getting lost in a field and wandering, retracing your steps around looking for a stile in order to move on. Where some less ambitious droners would stop at that point of confusion or dissipation and the piece would fizzle out Chip Shop Music don’t, and these moments are therefore elevated by the next shift that we come to and play a part in defining the larger overall context of the track. Indeed, the players move far and wide in the sonic territory they’ve chosen to stake out over the course of the two 25 minutes. Determination, again, to push through to the next environment, the next sonic configuration of the determined palette reaps cumulative rewards. The protocol pays off. The players set themselves potentially narrow parameters, but by diligently sticking with those parameters and working through various configurations encountered they end up exceeding them, thereby proving their validity as working methods. And, incidentally, at the same time demonstrating some of the unique benefits of working as a group.

If you have an interest in, or think you may from the descriptions here, continuous sound forms, electro-acoustics, highly engaging music that doesn’t involve melody and sidesteps other conventions, group improvisation or thought-provoking cultural artefacts then I can recommend this; in its extended forms it may extend lines of thinking, enquiry, even perception. (TS)

http://www.mathka.pl/

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DALE CORNISH Fleshpile Thematic CASSETTE (The Tapeworm, 2013)

I not only don’t know how  this cassette landed my way exactly (there are piles of tapes, CDs, books, records, dust, etc. everywhere around me here…) but know even less about Dale Cornish. I randomly played this cassette recently, however, and was immediately struck by the combination of deadpan spoken word vocals and haunting, presumably electronic, backing swirl of moody textures, shifting tones and occasional clunking sounds. Everything sounds makeshift and reminds me somewhat of The Shadow Ring.  I’m not a huge fan of cassettes, having (necessarily) released the fucking things myself in the ’80s and believing them of little consequence now beyond those dire hipster confines we seem to contend with in every direction, but this release actually made me dig into some other cassettes also flung my way recently.. proving, in an instance, that it is ultimately the contents, the music (and/or what’s behind it), that matters far more than any stupid and stymied snobbery or notions concerning desired format (irrespective of what I’d generally contend).  Shoot me.  Released in an edition of 200 and very tasty all round. (RJ)

http://www.tapeworm.org.uk/

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FATHER MURPHY Pain Is On Our Side Now 2 x S/Sided 10″ (Boring Machines, Italy, 2014)

Latest release from the Italian group usually prone to chiselling songs from a blend of psychedelic textures, dark folk, tumultous rock and avant-garde sensibilities. On this double-10″, however, they focus more on a ravaged and cut-up poetic angle buoyed by arcane noise and sparse yet dissonant industrial crunch rhythms. Cut-ups of sentences sourced from W.S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, St. Anselm and Father Murphy vocalist himself, Vinh Ngo, are suitably accompanied by the group’s trademark sound, which occasionally appears strangely akin to a  rougher, more DIY, Swans, whilst instruments such as a tuba, clarinet and sax also make an appearance on one of the four pieces and push things still further.

Everything hangs together well, though, and indicates that Father Murphy have a firm grasp on what they are doing. The only really baffling thing concerning this release is that it features four songs spread over two slabs of one-sided vinyl. Despite the nice gatefold sleeve and great artwork adorning it, I cannot guess why everything couldn’t be housed on one disc. Bizarre. (RJ)

http://www.boringmachines.it/

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LUCA FORCUCCI Fog Horns CD (Sub Rosa, Belgium, 2013)

The back sleeve recounts the artist’s experience of hearing fog horns echo across San Francisco whilst sleep deprived, befuddled and muddled from a days plane travel. A simple but effective description of the mundane subtly transfigured by an alteration of perception; an experience simultaneously beautifully alien and tantalisingly familiar. This borderland, where the Surrealists aimed to operate, is an often transitory perceptual mode, but one that can provide lasting inspiration[i], and pleasingly much of that subtle delight in the unexpected reconfiguration of the normal is transmitted to the three compositions presented here.

We open with the title track, a sparkling, fizzing bath of electronics and electroacoustics. A glinting kaleidoscope of environmental sounds and academic sonic manipulations, sine waves, risset tones, snatches of conversation, bird song. A mindful atmosphere pervades the wide-eyed (or eared) combinations of material. Tambura-like drones enhance the meditative atmosphere. The melange of elements effectively conveys the borderland between hearing and dreaming. Occasional languid scratches provide a gestural scribble and link to the physical body, which drifts away as quickly into the birdsong, shifting patterns of light in a tree-shaded summer park, waves crashing on the shore. Mysterious conversations drift through the consciousness like an open window, much like the passing clouds you are encouraged to visualise intruding verbal thoughts as in some meditation practices.

The title of the second track,, ‘L’ecume des jours’, is taken from Boris Vian’s novel. A certain exuberance and lightness of touch is attributed to the book, I can’t say for certain as I’ve tried and failed to read it twice over the past few years. The title is usually translated as something like ‘Foam of the Days’, which is a supremely evocative and poetic image that marries with the pacific breakers and audio foam of the track. The coastal environment re/presented/imagined, with its cleansed-doors-of-perception inclusiveness reminds me of the shores Coil washed up on, the Amon Duul II/Neu! referencing shivering sands of the Black Light District and the golden coins dropping into the amniotic surf of MU-UR from Astral Disaster.

Forcucci manages to maintain the balances of moods and for the most part keep things open with an easy-going alertness. I can hear (an imagined, in my case) San Francisco in there, I can also hear touches of San Francisco resident, Kim Cascone (who is thanked in the credits). I can also hear the audio diaries of the Ferraris (Luc and Brunhilde). Brunhilde is in fact also thanked.

After plunging headfirst into the raging currents of the Pacific where thoughts dart like the silvery flash of fishes (somehow we seem to have strayed verbally into Steve Hillage waters) we are sucked out of the waves by a UFO mimicking a fog horn and end up in the relative (be)calm(ed) of the final track, ‘Wind’, where deep electronic drones, hisses and softly clattering rigging against masts spread out a meandering sheen of surface tension and soft tapping over a bed of bass synth melody (which truth be told is a little overstated for me), again a little Coil-esque. This track meanders in the doldrums a little, but then you can’t have dream narratives without odd corners and corridors composed of dead-ends – which fades out after 17 minutes – without incident like a swiftly phased return to everyday consciousness.

Overall, there is plenty to enjoy in this lucid and playful album of modern electronic composition and I’d be interested to hear more from the artist. Recommended for a listen, for sure. (TS)

www.subrosa.net

BOLESLAW WAWRZYN I CDr (BDTA, Poland, 2013)

The debut, I understand, by this Polish artist who meshes field recordings together. The seven pieces here were recorded at various war memorials located at cemeteries and the like in different parts of Boleslaw’s native country. They collect birdsong and the buzzing sound of insects or wind rustling through the trees clearly designed to both capture the ambience of such places and contemplate over. The tumultuous yet soothing sounds of nature itself are used to mask a greater turbulence, encapsulating what has passed whilst both simultaneously asking why and celebrating the present. Thoughtful and commanding, this makes for a fine release. Limited to 66 that have long gone, but a second edition appeared and, of course, a download is available. (RJ)

www.bdta.pl

FRANCE JOBIN The Illusion of Infinitesmal CD (Baskaru, France, 2014)

Three rather subdued pieces hewn from shimmering, light yet warm, tones and smooth textures by this Canadian artist already known for her sound art and installations. Whilst this work may not sound readily distinguished from so many others of a similar disposition, there is a depth to it obviously arriving from a deft hand. The fact that Lawrence English has his hand in this via the mastering job likewise indicates a wholesome grasp on matters, too. Most pleasant. (RJ)

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HAPPY EVER AFTER eponymous MLP (X-Mist, Germany, 2014)

A collection of material originally recorded in ’89, I understand, by this post-hardcore gathering of like-minds including the vocalist of Social Unrest and Armin Hofmann, the founder of X-Mist Records. It’s all pretty snappy and adorned in a gruff overcoat that never once betrays a DIY sensibility, whilst some of the playing hints at things beyond the world this all clearly resides in. Actually, having not checked the speed, I originally played this at 33rpm and thought it seemed akin to Head Of David or JFK…which may well say something in and of itself. Spun correctly, however, itt bursts with vitriol and energy, plus the inclusion of a mandolin in the instrumentation is pure fucking genius. 150 copies only, in a fantastic screen-printed sleeve, on 180gsm vinyl. Smart. (RJ)

http://www.x-mist.de/

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DERECK HIGGINS Flyover LP (DVH Recordings, USA, 2013)

Dereck Higgins, once also a member of Digital Sex, has been producing solo electronic works since the mid-‘80s and around 13 years ago established his DVH Recordings label to house them on vinyl, CD and CDr releases. After stumbling across his YouTube channel (conducted under the name Dereck Von) in late 2013 due to his plugging of a Mahler Haze release of mine, and appreciating his often enthusiastic and energising posts concerning his passion for music and record collecting, I touched base with him and exchanged a healthy bunch of records. Amongst those he sent me were his LPs, Sonosspheres II and his very latest, Flyover. The former is credited to, simply, Dereck, and veers closer to my tastes with its slightly more abstract approach, while Flyover, in a way, dovetails perfectly with the man whose posts I still regularly feast on…or at least my perception of him. More upbeat yet infused with a subtle quirkiness and plenty of atmosphere, Flyover gathers fourteen cuts that draw from Dereck’s obvious love of electronic music from the ‘70s German pioneers to ‘90s dance and ambient realms.

Keyboard sweeps, the occasional Prog-ish grand chord gesture, generally mid-paced rhythms and sometimes spaceward-bound noodling all converge to spice up a contemporary take on an area of music that perhaps began with Cluster and Tangerine Dream before soaking up the likes of the late Namlook and moving onto those sonic pastures furrowed by Two Lone Swordsmen and Sabres Of Paradise et al. It is only perhaps because of the very nature of such music that it doesn’t necessarily all sound original, but everything is attired sprightly and with a freshness that oozes from every groove.

500 only on purple splatter vinyl,  plus packaged with much attention to detail. You could do far, far worse than invest in a copy of this. (RJ)

http://dvhrecordings.blogspot.com/

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FRANCE JOBIN The Illusion of Infinitesmal CD (Baskaru, France, 2014)

Three rather subdued pieces hewn from shimmering, light yet warm, tones and smooth textures by this Canadian artist already known for her sound art and installations. Whilst this work may not sound readily distinguished from so many others of a similar disposition, there is a depth to it obviously arriving from a deft hand. The fact that Lawrence English has his hand in this via the mastering job likewise indicates a wholesome grasp on matters, too. Most pleasant. (RJ)

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KAKOFONIKT Kaktuus CD (Fourth Dimension, 2014)

If somebody asked you, “How do you feel about that cactus?” you might reply with a shrug or mutter something about it being, “A bit prickly”. And if someone said, “Here, fancy making an album about a cactus?” you might, rightly, conclude that they are probably on drugs. But that’s exactly what KakofoNIKT have done here. They’ve made an album about a cactus. Alright, the cactus in question might be the sort which, when prepared and imbibed, cleavers open your third eye and leaves you wandering the desert in a nappy, looking for the ‘source…man’ – but it is still an album about a cactus.

And if you’re wondering how it makes them feel, I’d wager, pretty fucked up. Which is fine, as that’s exactly what you want from a group of Polish experimental electro-noisnik. The opening bass sounds like a u-boat sinking into the abyss and from here on in it is like someone slowly burning out the circuits of a tormented robot. But what the hell, we’re not here for pop hooks – we’re here to see exactly how crazy and interesting a bunch of men, boxed out of their head on cactus can make kraut rock sound. And once you settle in, the backwards screams of mental asylum patients and searing frequencies become quite hypnotic. It almost has an art house jazz feel to it.

Admittedly, this won’t be for everyone but you can’t fault a band with songs called things like ‘get around on the edges and diagonals of the imaginary square on the floor, stand in the middle of the square and light the fire, stare into it, breathe through the nose only, be as close to it as you can. Not so much a single – as a guide to better living. (MD)

www.fourth-dimension.net

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KAPITAL No New Age CD (Bocian, Poland, 2014)

Six pieces by the Polish duo of Kuba Ziolek and Rafal Iwanski, who’re both very active in the new music circles in Poland and of whom’s Iwanski’s X-Navi:et project is a particular highlight for me. These pieces were borne of an improvisation session utilising guitar, samplers, synth, voice and other electronics, but veer too much towards the safety nets afforded by soft-focus neo-ambient drifting and early ‘70s-inspired stirrings to be of any real consequence. It’s okay, but rather too polite and goes nowhere especially new, like some retired old cardigan-wearing pipe-puffer’s idea of an attempt to plummet the depths of electronic music without realising his splutterings have all been beaten into shape a thousand times before. Only the final piece, with its polyrhythmic underpinning, hints at something beyond, but it is too little too late. Yes, Richard Pinhas (of Heldon) is thanked on the cover, possibly due to his being some kind of inspiration here, but No New Age barely takes us beyond those areas mapped by him decades before, unfortunately. Apparently, Kuba is something of a sensation in Poland, too. I have no idea why, if this release is anything to go on. (RJ)

http://www.bocianrecords.com/

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MACHINEFABRIEK Veldwerk CD (Cold Spring, 2011)

The trouble with artists such as Rutger Zuydervelt, a.k.a. Macinefabriek, is that they just seem to continually churn stuff out. Barely a week goes by without yet another low run CDr or collaborative release appearing, which is all very well up to a point but one can’t help but question the artistic integrity of many such artists when it appears they can simply comply with each commission by tweaking a few of their studio presets in order to conjure up yet another album. Thankfully, however, Machinefabriek evades falling into completely workmanlike mode by forever pushing what is generally a subdued environment into new spheres whereby absolutely anything can happen at any given time. Whilst there may not be any real surprises tucked into Machinefabriek’s work, it does not fall towards typical ambient fare and, thankfully, steers well clear of all that cheesy post-industrial moodiness many an artist turns to in a wholly vain and ridiculous attempt to be profound. With elements such as guitar, field recordings, dialogue snatches, cut-ups and even a hint of musique concrete or burst of white heat applied to a hazy brew where symptoms of psychosis are never out of reach, Rutger Zuydervelt’s platform, which has remained prolific since 2006, has much to offer those so inclined.

Veldwerk itself is a collection of pieces that previously appeared on a single and CDr releases that were, in a few instances, originally commissioned for an installation and film festival (circuits themselves Machinefabriek is often found operating within). Each of the six cuts provides expansive insight to those areas often embraced by Rutger Zuydervelt yet equally sit comfortably together. Which might well serve the key to the path this unstoppable Dutch artist remains magically locked on. (RJ)

http://coldspring.co.uk/

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MAMMOTH ULTHANA eponymous CD (Zoruhum and Huta Artzine release, Poland, 2013)

Call me ungrateful, but I don’t think there is nearly enough shamanic-folk-electro which makes you feel like you’ve been zapped through a monolith, to witness the dawn of man. So thank the druids for Mammoth Ulthana – two men who have taken it upon themselves to combine electronics and all manner of traditional tribal instruments to make a concept album about the ancient tribe of Mammoth Ulthana.

Obviously, we have no way of telling if the tribe would have approved. But anything which sounds like a blissed-out Four Tet, wrapped in a goat skin rug is alright by me. Across eight tracks with tastefully oblique names like ‘Ballade’ and ‘Interludium’ we’re treated to a stereo of chimes, scrapes and reverberating horns – all kept in time with neat little beats which bounce around like a light, tropical rain shower.

If you had a video of a white toothed Californian doing Thai Chi, you could probably flog this as some sort of healing DVD. Fortunately, it doesn’t. And it really doesn’t matter if the idea of ‘tribal’ music makes you want to set fire to yourself in your local organic café – the fact is, you probably won’t find a more experimental electro album with such tight grip on melody.  (MD)

http://zoharum.com/

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PHILIP MARSHALL Passive Aggressive CASSETTE (Fragment Factory, Germany, 2013)

Two lengthy pieces, one per side, of electronic works,  by an artist I know almost nada about beyond the fact he is affiliated with the highly respected Touch label. As ever, it’s rather difficult to describe such work without turnng to the ‘tones and textures’ umbrella often waywardly thrust in the direction of such music, but I get the feeling that Philip is at least trying to say something which transcends this. A quote on the inside cover equally indicates there being something conceptual here, but it is very easy to get drawn into the environment Passive Aggressive has created regardless. Hypnotic sonic mulch can be played out far worse than this. Nice. (RJ)

http://fragmentfactory.com/

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THE NECKS Open CD (ReR Megacorp, 2013)

I have invested in or procured several albums by Australia’s The Necks over the years and, although I rarely even think of returning to them, I always enjoy them when I do. On those previous albums of theirs I have, the group foraged a mesh of sometimes jazzy rhythms, hypno-groove and soundtrack-ish textures perfect, seemingly, for a long drive through an imaginary desert as dusk falls. Open, however, has a more minimalist hue, bearing much in common with Charlemagne Palestine’s Strumming Music and the kinda contemporary classical composition for piano the likes of Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Steve Reich originally pioneered. Being one long piece that lasts for almost 67 minutes, I am certain it was improvised the same way as all of The Necks’ work, as opposed to being composed, though, and I find it difficult to not at least appreciate the obvious chemistry these guys possess. Irrespective, it’s rather delightful if even more generally unassuming than before. It begins interestingly enough with 20 or so minutes dedicated to some tinkling sounds, piano and sparse double bass,  then points at something altogether more cyclic, refined and easy to dream to.

Endearing, but I have to ‘fess preferring the jazzier and, dare I say, post-rock-ish slant of the older records.  Whilst they likewise nodded towards this cosy realm, they actually possessed a sound that was completely distinguished and could be considered their own. I’m not entirely convinced Open, as pleasant as it is, achieves this.  It sounds to me like The Necks were just trying too hard and somehow lost their way in the process. (RJ)

http://www.rermegacorp.com/

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Art-Errorist and Zsolt Sörés The Wasp Boutique 2LP (Peripheral Conserve, Hungary, 2014)

Beehold! Wasp ist das? Une lavishly presented double platter, sonically catered by Peter Strickland’s Peripheral Conserve concern. As yonder wings of gatefold do reflect and resist each other so our two heroes, Peron and Sörés, find themselves ensconced twixt Buda and Pest, meeting somewhere in the centre of a spindle, sleeved in scalped and tweezered Stapeltonian elegance by Babs Santini and surrounded by a theatre full of instruments.

The two last met on disc, to the best of my partial and fragmentary knowledge, during their European peregrinations in Poland where they jammed with Richo J and Theme. Somehow this, ahem, theme of travel subtly informs the twin liquorice clocks slipped here. More (and less) exactly, border-crossings and subtle permeations are infused throughout the project, effective methods road-tested, on JHP’s part, since the first heady flush of Kraut-Konsciousness rocked out in rickety vans over Europe in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

JHP straddles the borders of Germany and France, Zsolt has links, as hinted, to Poland as well as his home country, Hungary. Stapleton started his own musical journeying with a voyage to Germany to roadie for Guru Guru and Kraan. Strickland moves between audio and visual disciplines, Katalin Varga (with its NWW soundtrack) and Berberian Sound Studio are syntheses of many of his passions in both those areas.

Ah, these wheels within wheels, this tentative turning of the cogs, dusty with centuries of smoke and food and dust all whip up for us a Euro-melange of a scintillating stripe. Indeed, in a further cross-pollinic twist you even get a Strickland DVD thrown in, an impressive saturated and electro-magneti-mangled lo-fi montage of JHP and Zsolt doing their thing in the dusty upper-storey theatre space that looks like something out of Švankmajer’s Faust (Aha! I didn’t even intend that one) meets Kenneth Anger in the Films du Pantheon Studio in Paris.

And so, with all the weight of a swarm of wasps’ wings a hidden European history of an underground bohemia that may never have totally existed unfurls wraith-like before our mind’s ears, bringing with it the strange magic of hidden corners and connections.

Sprawling, wiry constructions stretch their ways across all four recorded sides, digital delay streams with an acoustic spindly spindrift nature. Flotsam and electric junk contoured by occasional incantation and (interjection). Much of it is necessarily of a flipside and side-track nature, nevertheless mucho territory, albeit not the picture postcard hotspots, is covered in amongst the detritus of our duo’s derives. The first track partakes somewhat of the stoned-wasp buzz of Krautrock (the song not the appellation), whilst later on decimated repeato chunk-junk riffing flings us 100g of protein in a flapping flatulent riff worthy of Graupners Black Boxes allied to the winding sinuous quality of progression threading through Budapest byways that characterises the release as two wholes.

In these bacterial cellular electronic delay-jams where Game-boys and crackle boxes blorp and beep extra dimension, as in non-linear logic, is added by the floating trumpet lines Hervé-Peron drapes over the top in that wistful, draughty garret. Whispered vocals intertwine with pitch-shifted brass, as if Jon Hassell had relocated his fourth world to the Old World; less Vernal Equinox, more the first flecks of snow dusting in as skirling viola horse-hairs the temples, anointed with paprika and drifting wanderlust.

In place of Faust-tape edits, of concision, there is instead a winding, coiling spirit of exploration, happy to stretch out time with extended rickety frame works of pulse and exotic instrumental noise. Haphazardly clustered around rhythmic delays, these astral dustbin dirges are sprinkled with distinctive psaltery savour that is potent yet elusive; a travelogue of the unconscious.

Henry Flynt may play the cosmic Hillbilly with his fiddle, Zsolt’s richer, more lugubrious viola, however, keens and lilts with myriad Ur-opean melodies – a fertile tradition in which fellow-countryman Bartók found melodic sustenance, whilst under wide grey and blue skies the water vapour condenses and runs from mountain to plain to slow rivers. Mental Danubes, Isars, wend their way across country and vinyl.

As in the best contradictory/unitary Faustradtion a buzzing industrial drone quality percolates through the yearning past(and-fut)oral krautrock utopian moves, but sideswiped with this side-street old weird Eastern Europe vibe. I keep coming back to this perceived Continental nature, elusive, or illusive, though it may be, but there’s a definite peripatetic alternative Europeanism, as delineated earlier, that informs many levels of this project, within which are faint hints of a temporary a-temporal autonomy, a borderless community of poets and wanderers, gypsies and bohemians, alchemists and anarchists. Where do we sign up? I feel like getting on the bus myself.

Through bric-a-brac, linguistic patchwork, tributaries, meander. A Hermann Hesse golden thread. A rivulet of thinned paint running. A flash of a sigil inscribed with a chainsaw on metal as film is bathed in light and overexposed – when our eyes adjust again everything has disappeared, empty as the creaking floorboards and settling dust…

So, why don’t you eat goulash? Go on, join Zsolt and Jean-Hervé in their Attic Meal. Just watch out for the wasps… (TS)

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SUPERBUGGER Aku CD (Heart & Crossbone, Israel, 2012)

Album debut proper by this New Zealand group with only, otherwise, two very low run CDr releases to their name prior to this. Unsurprisingly, for a NZ group, lo-fi is the order of the day (it’s as though they’re all on some kinda reactionary punk rock mission down there, or maybe the simple truth is that nobody has a decent studio. Who knows?), but the somewhat badly named Superbugger churn out six distorto-guitar-heavy slabs of ur-rock with nods towards those very same acid-drenched psychedelic assaults all from High Rise to most of the early Noiseville Records’ catalogue likewise hit us with. Everything is cranked up to virtually molten levels of overload, muffled vocals sometimes fight their way through, tumbling drums compete, and somewhere amidst the melee at least one guitar occasionally thrusts forward like it wishes to be in a metal group. At least the poor production values, intentional or otherwise, prevent it from doing just that. (RJ)

www.hcbrecords.com

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ROBERT TURMAN Flux CD (Editions Mego/Spectrum Spools, Austria, 2012)

This is actually a recording from 1981, although the sound wouldn’t make you think that. It was released as a double album in 2012 as part of Editions Mego’s Spectrum Spools series, for which it was (exceptionally well) remastered.

It begins with a delicate repeating loop of what sounds like an electrified thumb piano – delicate but effective, that is. It’s a great example of how simplicity and serenity can be very engaging to a listener. Although there isn’t technically a lot going on, I felt myself drawn enough by the melody that I was savouring the full sound of every note.

I can actually picture this release being a soundtrack, because the plaintive melodies do have such an emotional quality to them. Each plucked note seems so deliberate, so important that it makes you focus on the unadorned sound. More music should aim for this. Part of me wants to listen to this in bed and let its soft tones lull me to sleep, but another part thinks that I’d end up getting too wrapped up in what was happening, as deceptively simple as it is.

As the album progresses, I find the parts that are strictly, recognizably piano a little less interesting, although that’s possibly because I personally don’t love the sound of pianos. There’s nothing that makes these parts objectively better or worse. Even those, though, maintain that emotional, touching quality that elevates the album as a whole.

Mego has definitely unearthed a gem from before its time with Flux. It’s astounding how many artists are making a name for themselves doing exactly this kind of thing thirty years later. It’s nice to have the sonic reminder of their origins. (KM)

BOLESLAW WAWRZYN I CDr (BDTA, Poland, 2013)

The debut, I understand, by this Polish artist who meshes field recordings together. The seven pieces here were recorded at various war memorials located at cemeteries and the like in different parts of Boleslaw’s native country. They collect birdsong and the buzzing sound of insects or wind rustling through the trees clearly designed to both capture the ambience of such places and contemplate over. The tumultuous yet soothing sounds of nature itself are used to mask a greater turbulence, encapsulating what has passed whilst both simultaneously asking why and celebrating the present. Thoughtful and commanding, this makes for a fine release. Limited to 66 that have long gone, but a second edition appeared and, of course, a download is available. (RJ)

www.bdta.pl

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ZENIAL Connection Reset by Peer CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2012)

Starting with a recording of birdsong this CD soon segues into its main mode of approach: laminate constructions of precise digital buzz and scrim underplayed by deeper thrums and drones. The superficially noisy building blocks are slotted so neatly and fade in and out so steadily as to render the overall effect rather ambient. Phrases tend to the cyclical and the pacing is stately within the churn. Palette-wise there are some sonic similarities to early digital Merzbow (A Day of Seals, etc.), but strapped comfortably into a more overtly rhythmic, loop-based framework. Sometimes the effect is akin to what I imagine listening to a bandpass filtered didgeridoo run through Guitar Rig might be like.

The short, repeating phrases and steady tempo might trigger memories of other vaguely noisy rhythmical, loop-based artists like Muslimgauze or Zoviet*France (perhaps with less overt focus or thematic concerns, though) especially as the music never boils over into anything too unhinged or abrasive, content to ride the cycles. Overall, in contrast to the aforementioned artists, the textures are resolutely digitally sharpened, prickling and fizzing with laptop attack.

I remember as a teenager being very intrigued by a review, possibly not intended to be entirely complementary, that likened an album (it was an AX album, incidentally) to being trapped in a washing machine. I liked the sound of that, although years later when I happened to pick up the CD second hand it didn’t sound nearly washing machine enough for me. Perhaps my expectations were raised by the washing machine in my parents house at that time, I remember it having a very bass-heavy, grinding main cycle. In some ways the music on this album could slot into a hypothetical washing-machine-machine canon (Further suggestions to the Ed.); there’s an uneasy, mechanically-derived soporific-hypnotic quality to the looping buzzes and whirrs that seem to emanate from the stereo a lot like the subliminal cycles of active domestic appliances.

Further variations on a theme are provided in the penultimate track by a live extract, that although seemingly rather arbitrarily snipped out has some more exciting concrete tones and bass vibrations that I ascribe to its recording in a live setting, the bass making good on the otherwise apparently sonically unrelated Jah and Lion of Judah references in other track titles (although a ‘dub’ perspective could come at third hand as it were through nods to the approach of industrial artists themselves referencing dub technique, viz. Muslimgauze).The album finishes with a short remix that acts as an effective coda to the 40 minutes that have preceded it, Michel Banabila abruptly stops the omnipresent cyclical hum a minute or two in, leaving the album to fade out in a forest of digitals chirrups, a neat echo of the albums opening. (TS)

http://zoharum.com/

 

READING MATTER

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All the Young Punks, Volume 3  (ed. George Berger, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 138pp, 2014)

For those of you who missed volumes 1 and 2, this is a book (available both electronically and physically) with reminiscences from various people (including AE ed Richo) on the punk years and their take on it, via questions such as ‘how did you get into it’, ‘how did it make you feel’, ‘how did it change your life’ etc.  It’s all very DIY (electronic self-publishing being a modern-day version of the punk gesture of releasing your own 7” ( I daresay), and I’m sure it was done with the best intentions, but like a lot of what came out of the DIY punk scene it’s not really very good (and like the text on a lot of anarcho-punk 7”s, the standard of English is appalling).

I must confess to having limited interest in a bunch of personal anecdotes from a bunch of people I’ve never met – it’s like overhearing the conversation of the strangers at the next table down the pub.  Few of the interviewees have much of interest to say – insights such as, “A lot of the people I would meet were not necessarily very cool people. There were and are a lot of arseholes in the punk scene, as with any group of people. Punk is not some place where, magically, all the cool people are. Sometimes you’ll encounter the most obnoxious, snarky and negative people in the scene” are outweighed by dreary clichés like, “Today I remain a vegetarian, hold many anarchist principles and attempt to lead a ‘non-corporate’ life”, blah de fucking blah.

So what do we learn about punk and what it was all about?  Final word to James Hollands, ex-curator of London’s wonderful Horse Hospital: “It made me realise that pissing people off was really, really good fun”. (AB)

http://www.amazon.com/All-The-Young-Punks-Volume/dp/150076048X

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Cult People: Amazing Tales From Hollywood’s Exploitation A-List, by Nicanor Loreti, paperback, 304 pages, £12.99/$19.95 (Headpress, published 2010)

The word ‘Cult’ means only one thing – the profitable student market. Where once there were one or two books on the subject in your local Waterstones there are now shelves of the stuff. B-movies, Z-movies, trash movies, all stand side by side with the latest James Franco biography. It’s a profitable market. Books, posters, DVDs, T-shirts. But as the otherwise abysmal Lloyd ‘Troma” Kaufman says in the foreword, there’s no difference between mainstream and cult films. It’s all product.

The book is a collection of interviews conducted by Nicanor Loreti which re-treads the same ol’ same ol’: Wes Craven, Herschell Gordon Lewis, David Carradine, Michael Rooker, Dan O’Bannon and so on. They’re no more than conversations between a fan and the film maker/actor and should have remained as such. Why print it up as a book?

There’s a reasonably interesting interview with Richard Stanley and Maggie Moor. It glances at his documentaries (far more rewarding than his films), his interest in the Nazis’ attempts to find the Holy Grail, travels to the Arctic Circle and his work in Afghanistan.

Other than that there’re the interviews with director Ken Russell, composer Claudio Simonetti and Tetsuo director Shinya Tsukamoto. But again we learn nothing we didn’t already know. It’s a shame there weren’t far more extensive and in-depth interviews conducted with them.

What’s the point of this book?  You have to be a teen to give a damn. We’re not and we don’t. (HM)

http://www.headpress.com/

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Discombobulated, by Simon Morrisson, sofcover, 256pp., £11.99 (Headpress Books, published 2011)

The author is a music journalist for various dance/DJ mags and this book is a compilation of his articles, detailing his experiences of clubbing worldwide. It must be a good job – get paid to visit amazing cities worldwide and dance in them – but from my brief dalliance with clubbing culture, and having read this book, it is clear that it is a difficult subject to write about. Like dreams and acid trips, the experience of being pumped up in a club with repetitive beats pounding your eardrums and having lost yourself to everything but the motoric rhythm is a very powerful and personal experience; and, like dreams and acid trips, it makes a dull subject for anecdotes. If you weren’t there yourself, you won’t benefit from hearing someone else going on about it.

None of this bodes well for Discombobulated – the author starts out with a tricky task, and does himself no favours along the way. To be fair, I’m not sure exactly how one would go about making a night out in a dance club into an interesting read, but it certainly hasn’t happened here. I’m sorry to say that there is little to recommend in this book. The author seems like a nice bloke (except for one odious chapter wherein he hero-worships murderous gangster Dave Courtney) and I’ll always wish Headpress well, but this book is a slog, and one which I would have soon given up on if I hadn’t had to review it – the horrifying hippy clichés (the whole world would be united in peace if only we were all dancing to the same beat in the same club) are reason enough to throw it out of the window.

Morrisson has a habit of repeating the same jokes that weren’t that funny to begin with, and he also (a la the title) loves puns. Puns, for fuck’s sake. It’s as if he’s actually realised that his stories are uninteresting and repetitious (goes to one city after the next, goes clubbing there, usually on expenses – fun to do but no fun to read about) and is trying to compensate [I’m guessing it was a PUNishing read, Anton? Sorry… – Ed.]. It might have worked as a travel book but the author doesn’t even find much of interest to say about the (presumably fascinating) places he finds himself in. Instead, he describes his situation, again and again and again, as “deliciously wrong”, but he never has the good grace to explain why it is deliciously wrong. Hunter S Thompson must indirectly shoulder some blame here – ever since Fear And Loathing, lesser talents have tried to devise wild first-person tales of living on the edge, and most (like Discombobulated) have failed dismally. Morrisson even devotes a chapter to HST (clearly a hero of his) and does a sort of pastiche of F and L’s famous opening lines, making his stylistic copying even more blatant. However, unlike HST he doesn’t once mention taking any drugs (which seems a cop-out) but he does talk about being constantly drunk. I would think this goes against the clubbing ethos, surely? It also makes his book yet duller – drunks are not interesting and neither are their stories of getting drunk. Maybe it’s because writing about getting drunk is safer legal territory that writing about getting pilled-up? Or maybe it’s because he states his intention as creating a cross between Withnail And I and Fear And Loathing, but he falls far short of the humour and heart of either.

He goes on about some psychogeographical location he calls “The Wrong Side” (where, one assumes, everything is “Deliciously Wrong”) but yet again we never have any sense of what this means – like an over-excited teenager he perceives wonderful weirdness in everything he sees and does but it’s simply not there for the reader. Instead, this is an empty book in which each chapter seems just like the last – not surreal and trippy, just boring. And he doesn’t even talk about the music, which might at least give his book some appeal to the nerdy techie/anorak kids, leaving me to wonder whom exactly this book is for – maybe hardcore clubbers might like its lack of substance and lack of anything requiring thought, but they’re presumably too drug-fried to be able to read even a book as throwaway and easily digestible as this one. (AB)

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Sun Ra: Interviews and Essays, edited by John Sinclair, 202pp,, softcover, (Headpress Books, published 2011)

Exactly as you’d expect from the title, this simply collects a significant enough number of essays and interviews with, or by, one-time collaborators of the late, great Sun Ra, journo obsessives, and of course with the man himself. Through these, we learn more about the way Sun Ra operated and ran the tight ship that was his large ensemble, the Arkestra, plus,much of what drove him to keep pushing away at his ideas until they not only evolved from their roots in the bebop and swing of the pre-1950s into something entirely new and far more expansive but also became a force so inspiring on the music landscape they touched artists way outside the jazz spectrum. Such as MC5 manager (and editor of this collection), John Sinclair, and MC5’s guitarist, Wayne Kramer, whose allegiance to Sun Ra was forged during a series of shows together in 1969 that themselves once again say much about the depth and breadth of Ra’s scope.

For all of the illuminating insights to both the music of Sun Ra and his own vision, itself partly fuelled by Egyptology, science fiction takes on the cosmos and notions of freedom, Interviews and Essays still, however, feels as though it’s only touching the surface of its subject. This is not exactly a criticism, either. Rather, it’s another testament to Sun Ra’s legacy as a highly driven and complex artist far removed from the whims of most of those involved in music, and it could be contended that any book devoted to him/his work would have a colossal task in unveiling much more than the surface in the first place. Although Interviews and Essays is thoroughly researched and throws up many interesting details concerning Ra as a person and an artist, plus his work practices and various concerts performed by the Arkestra, it ultimately delivers like a mere introduction. Aside from this, I would love to know why a chapter wasn’t devoted to going through Sun Ra’s discography?

Otherwise, this makes for a good enough companion for anybody with more than a passing interest in Sun Ra and the many trails he blazed between Saturn and some of jazz’s greatest steps towards realms far removed. (RJ)

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magazine dedicated to culture's generally more nefarious corners

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